Technology creates whistleblower network to identify serial abusers | Behavior

A platform developed by startup SafeSpace can help victims anonymously report harassment in the workplace — from abuses of power or authority to unwanted sexual advances. In addition to registering the complaint without revealing the identity, the tool manages to generate a history of the abuser’s profile, to check if he has more than one complaint.

SafeSpace is a company that offers the Connect platform, capable of identifying serial abusers (Image: HaticeEROL/Pixabay)

The platform that allows the complaint is called Connect. It is offered within SafeSpace’s platform for businesses, who use the tool as a way to improve governance over harassment issues within their professional environments.

How Connect Works for Harassment Complaints

Anyone who has a relationship with the company — whether as a direct employee or a third party — can make a report to Connect. She can choose to identify herself when reporting, or remain anonymous. The tool does not store the data provided by the victim.

Connect’s report is then forwarded to the company’s HR and compliance department. It is up to the sectors to decide whether an investigation will be opened on the defendant’s conduct.

Through the platform, the company’s compliance department can contact the victim and see if she can or feels comfortable sharing more information.

To file a complaint within the SafeSpace website, the victim must fill in some mandatory information: she must point out who committed the abuse, as well as classify what type of harassment was committed. The app itself guides the user in that direction, with a page showing all sorts of offensive behavior. At the end, the app asks for a brief description about the event.

Giovanna Sasso, co-founder of SafeSpace, which has 4 women in the lead, spoke with Techblog about the platform:

“We said that the weight of what happened shouldn’t be on the victim. Hardly anyone will harass just one person — it’s a behavior that she takes to other relationships. The important thing is to have the visibility of the report so that the company can talk to other people within the organization itself. About 98% of the reports are true.”

In 60% of the reports, the user prefers to remain anonymous

According to Giovanna, about 60% of reports inside SafeSpace are anonymous. Most cases are discomfort within the professional environment: they are small problems, such as discomfort caused by toxic behavior.

SafeSpace sells two products to small businesses with 300 to 1,000 employees. The first service is the reporting platform itself. The second is focused on training employees to use it, through mentoring and workshops.

Training can be done with everyone, but Giovanna points out that this should be a concern for executives, especially. “If someone in the company wants to speak, the report must start from an environment of empathy and diversity. This leads people to talk network: one after another.”

SafeSpace training is aimed at everyone, but executives must create an environment of “empathy and diversity” (Image: Mohammad Hassan/Pixabay)

The startup was about to go public, but was forced to hold back prospecting for new investments due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

To Techblog, SafeSpace confirmed that it intends to open a new round of investments soon. For now, it has received contributions from the MAYA Capital fund and some angel investors, such as 99 co-founder Ariel Lambrecht. The company already works with some famous clients in the market, such as Creditas, Gupy and Buser.

Platform allows combating serial abusers

The platform is recent, but it could have helped women like Vitória (pseudonym). She was working at a large chemical company in a junior position when she came across her first case of harassment:

“I was at one of my first jobs and I was super young. I heard from my boss “Wow, will I need to see you without makeup?”. Where I worked, I had to wear formal attire, as it was a very strict corporate environment.”

Vitória reports that, on another occasion, after questioning her boss’s attitudes, he even made an obscene gesture at her. More than once, the employee considered reporting him for harassment, but was afraid of being caught with the email open, along with the report. “More than once I tried to draft an e-mail to the person in charge of HR”, says Vitória to Techblog.

In cases like Victory, the victim of harassment can use SafeSpace to find out if the abuser has more than one complaint filed against him. When the complaint is forwarded to HR, professionals can identify this recurrence and take appropriate action when it is a case of “serial abuser”.

From the first complaint, a kind of “file” is generated by the platform, which tracks other possible complaints about the same person. “Most cases involve members of high-ranking positions. So Connect comes in with weight when it’s more than one victim,” says Giovanna, co-founder of the startup.

“The idea is to learn”, says co-founder of SafeSpace

One of the companies served by SafeSpace is Facily, an offer-on-demand and e-commerce service. “The company grew, and we started to hire more and more people, call more suppliers. This requires a consolidated channel for complaints and relationships with stakeholders,” he tells the Techblog Marcelo Pachani, HR manager at Facily.

Pachani says that each report made via Connect is urgently seen by Facily’s compliance team, which is in charge of investigating the conduct of the abuser in question. Of the 450 employees subscribed to the tool, 80% access the SafeSpace website frequently.

About a probable misuse of the platform to harass other employees, the HR manager points out that Facily identifies personal differences, but that “the company has its own ethics and code of conduct that everyone must follow”.

Giovanna points out that, generally, after a complaint on SafeSpace, the company does not fire the employee who is the target of the complaint:

“This tool is a learning tool. Companies realize this and call the employee in private meetings, gather witnesses. The idea is not to tax, it is to learn, everyone together. It’s not a witch hunt.”

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