|By Caterina Spinaris|
As in other branches of law enforcement, sexual involvement is not uncommon between corrections employees who are married or in otherwise committed relationships. These behaviors cause a multitude of complications in the workplace and can also wreak havoc in people’s personal lives.
Here are some thoughts as to why corrections staff may get entangled in such relationships, even after they have witnessed similar situations ending in shipwrecks.
False sense of intimacy. Staff spends a good portion of their waking hours with coworkers, in close quarters. In many cases they spend more time with coworkers than with their own partners. Together, they share stressful and even traumatic experiences. They bond with one another like soldiers in a combat zone. Staff may not confide in their partners about work to not cause them worry, to maintain professional confidentiality requirements, or to forget about work while at home. They may come to believe that fellow employees understand and support them better than their partners. Physical proximity coupled with shared unique experiences on the job can cause professional boundaries to collapse.
Emotional release. The corrections environment tends to be one of underlying tension, negativity and/or boredom. Distressing emotions get stirred up on the job with few healthy outlets. Romantic/sexual involvement in the workplace provides a jolt of excitement, a means of escape from such emotions, a mood-altering “fix.”
Self-worth issues. When a coworker flirts with a staff member with low self-esteem, that person feels desirable, “special.” The person starts to think, . I’m preferred over another person. I’m sexy/ cool /hot. I call this “collecting votes.” So getting involved with coworker ensures that these exhilarating feelings will keep getting generated, at least for a season.
Sex and romance “addiction.” The process of seduction provides powerful although temporary mood lifts. As the effects wear off over time, addicts seek a new high through a new relationship. And the pattern continues. In some cases even sex addicts fall for the games of others who are deeper into their sex addiction, who are more of a true sexual predator on the “hunt” for their next conquest, their next victim. So those who just wanted to “play” may end up devastated, beaten at their own game.
Role modeling. Exposure to certain behaviors desensitizes people to them. Staff’s conduct influences other staff. When exposed to coworkers’ involvement with fellow employees, some staff might come to regard this as acceptable or even advantageous behavior, and they may follow suit.
What can keep staff from getting caught in these traps?
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