Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault Prevention: The Platinum Rule

Oct 25, 2018

Makana Risser-Chai, human resources trainer, consultant and attorney
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

Sexual harassment and sexual assault have been in the headlines recently and the Rotary Club of Honolulu featured a local expert to provide some insight and guidance.

“All assault is harassment but not all harassment is assault.”


Makana Risser-Chai is a former Silicon Valley attorney, consultant and human resources trainer.


“There’s criminal and civil assault.  And criminal means touching the intimate private parts which are defined as the breast, buttocks, groin, anything else you can think of.”


Rotary Club of Honolulu luncheon meeting at Waialae Country Club
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

Risser-Chai says behavior that is sexual or sexist, unwelcome by the victim, severe or pervasive, and known but not corrected by the employer can be prosecuted.  Many companies adopt policies and values that are more stringent than the law to prevent lawsuits.   Risser-Chai says there are 3 simple tests to evaluate behavior.


“The first is the media test.  Would you want to see a video of yourself doing this on social media.  Going viral.  If not, don’t do it.  The family test.  Would you want someone else to be doing this to a member of your family; your wife, your daughter, your girlfriend, your boyfriend, you husband.  If not, don’t do it.  And then the third test is the both sexist test:  are you treating this woman the same as you would be treating a male.”


But, there are gray areas like the Aloha hug that can be sexual.


Risser-Chai on the "Aloha Hug"
Credit Wayne Yoshioka


“I asked one group, ‘How do you know if it’s Aloha?’ and a woman said, ‘When it’s quick and dry.’  That’s a good standard.”


Risser-Chai says everything you ever wanted to know about sexual harassment and sexual assault you learned in kindergarten, like keep your hands to yourself and respect others. 


“Often people say, you know, a really good value is the Golden Rule:  Treat people the way you wanna be treated.  Some friends of mine, Phil Wexler and Tony Alexander came up with a variation.  The Platinum Rule:  Treat others the way they want to be treated.”


The bottom line she says is to maintain good working relationships which, at times, could require giving each other some slack.


“You know, local style sometimes…stop doing it.”


For HPR News, I’m Wayne Yoshioka.