Personal Stories

A Tribute to Sharon Scrimshaw

June 05, 2022

On June 2, 2022, the community lost a dear friend and fierce advocate. We’re deeply privileged to have known Sharon Scrimshaw and CREVAWC Community Director, Barb MacQuarrie, has put to words the immense gratitude we all hold for having had Sharon in our lives.


Tribute-Sharon-Scrimshaw-200x200.jpgIn 1995, workplace sexual harassment was rampant, research and advocacy to address the problem was scant and the #MeToo movement was still more that a decade in the future. Earlier efforts to name the problem had faded into an obscure silence. Sharon’s voice emerged out of that uneasy hush. At the time she was a single mother who had endured 13 years of daily sexual harassment and sexual assault at her job. When years of filing complaints with her employer and her union yielded no results, except possibly an escalation in the harassment, she finally left her job.

Sharon spoke out. She spoke through the media; she spoke at rallies and demonstrations and workshops. Sharon launched a civil suit, initially naming both her union and her employer but eventually only focusing on her employer. For seven years she fought on uncharted legal ground to have the harm caused by her experiences of workplace sexual harassment and violence recognized. Sharon finally won her civil suit. She claimed her refusal to sign a gag order that would have prevented her from talking about what she experienced as her greatest victory.

That battle had a devastating emotional and physical toll on Sharon but giving up was not an option. During that time, she somehow managed to harness the energy to join forces with advocates and researchers to educate about the pernicious problem of workplace sexual harassment and to demand change. And she didn’t stop there. Understanding the loneliness of being a survivor of workplace sexual violence and the paucity of supportive resources, she committed her time, her energy and her heart to helping other survivors. Sharon was literally a lifeline to countless women who had no idea who to turn to or where to go for help. These women found her through a network akin to an underground railroad and always attuned to this injustice, sometimes she found them. With no formal organization and no funding support, she helped women to navigate the murky and all-too-often unresponsive systems meant to resolve situations of workplace sexual harassment.

Today, the #MeToo movement is amplifying the voices of survivors of sexual violence everywhere and sparking initiatives to make much needed changes. Before our collective awakening, pioneers like Sharon were working hard to shine a light on the problem and to advocate for change. Sharon infused the work to build the movement we have today with energy and resolve. She refused to accept the status quo and drove the work forward with her determination to make positive changes. She met the seemingly insurmountable challenges of ignorance, disinterest and sometimes willful negligence with an unwavering commitment to change the way we perceive workplace sexual harassment and the way that we respond to it.

Important as Sharon’s work to address workplace sexual harassment is, her life was about much more than that. Emerging from many years of sexual violence and a brutal legal battle, she demonstrated her resilience by building a beautiful, joyful life, focusing on her family and a circle of friends. Those privileged to be close to her knew a truly generous and loving person.

“Even death is not to be feared by one who has lived wisely.” – Buddha

In lieu of flowers, donations to London Abused Women's Centre are appreciated or you can plant a tree in Sharon’s memory.