A lot of ladies experience sexual harassment in various forms. Sadly, not everyone understands sexual harassment for what it is. As a result, most ladies hurt inside, yet, they keep silent, not knowing whether to take action or not. This article aims at exploring the concept of sexual harassment by analyzing its various forms. It further relates this to the workplace.
The Popular Scenario
Miss M finally gets her dream job after four years of constant application. Her boss is a nice man. He supports and puts her through work challenges. Yes, she appreciates the help but is becoming very uncomfortable with the way he looks at her, jokes, and laughs out loud. His gestures migrate from a high five to a pat in the back. Next comes a seemingly unconscious back rub for a job well done and just today he slaps her in the butt!
She loves her job so well and would not lose it for anything. However, she now feels trapped in between the devil and the deep blue sea. Her boss is not asking for sex. He has not attempted kissing or hugging her but a slap in the butt seems very intrusive. It is a far stride beyond boundaries. She wants to confront him but can’t find the words. She feels her job will be threatened if she does. In addition, considering the lack of verbal demand she is left to decide if a slap in the butt is just another joke, an unconscious act, or sexual harassment.
What is Sexual Harassment?
Going by its dictionary definition, sexual harassment is a behavior characterized by making unwelcome and inappropriate sexual remarks or physical advances in a workplace or other professional or social situation.
Forms of Sexual Harassmentin the Workplace
unwelcome touching (eg, a hand around the shoulder or waist)
staring or leering
suggestive comments or jokes
sexually explicit pictures or posters
unwanted invitations to go out on dates
requests for sex
intrusive questions about a person’s private life or body
unnecessary familiarity, such as deliberately brushing up against a person
insults or taunts based on sex
sexually explicit physical contact
sexually explicit emails or SMS text messages as well as others
While these forms of sexual harassment can be experienced in any situation, it is a more pronounced offense in the workplace. This is because the workplace is a very formal setting that comes with strict boundaries. These actions however are very extreme to not be termed sexual harassment. Are you stuck in silence and confusion like Miss M? Feel free to take legal action. Do not remain in your shell.
People sharing a similar experience with Miss M sometimes want to take action but are held back by limitations. These limitations come in the form of fears and questions about what their actions may imply. Below are some of their fears
In most culture-conscious societies, women are made to feel responsible for being harassed sexually. Sexual harassment is related to the physical appearance/ physique of the victim in relation to her dressing. Because of this, victims sometimes develop this feeling of guilt by thinking they could be responsible.
Loss of job
Another fear that silences sexually harassed victims in the workplace is the fear of losing their job. In the workplace, victims who keep silent are majorly those being harassed by the boss, especially in privately owned businesses. Indeed, the possibility of losing their job is high, especially when job security is unstable.
Stigmatization is a fear faced by most victims of harassment both within and outside the workplace. Sexual harassment is a topic that draws a lot of attention. When one speaks up, a lot of persons become involved. While some are on your side, others are against you. It takes a lot to maintain your mental health and manage the unwanted attention and psychological trauma that comes with this.
The law works with evidence and this is one thing people lack when wanting to report a case of harassment. Most times the best proof one can offer while reporting a case of sexual harassment is a video. Claims are not enough. Sadly, most times you don’t know when they will cross the line. Setting up a camera when they do might not be feasible enough. If caught up in this situation, try a voice recording. Fortunately, the law does not work with direct evidence alone. Learn more about other valid ways of providing evidence by clicking here.
If you face any of the fears explored above, then here are solutions to the questions in your head. Before you explore these solutions, however, you need to understand that you are responsible for maintaining your sanity. Therefore, no matter how hard it seems, the choice of taking an action or keeping silent is yours.
Set your boundaries right-This involves having a limit to the kind of conversations you permit. Whenever they begin to get personal in a conversation, channel it back to a formal conversation. They will get the signal that you are not ready to bend.
Subtly introduce external threats- In this case, external threats are factors that turn people off. Casually mention the presence of a fiancé or spouse in your life. Make passing statements about other activities that can signal a complete lack of interest and can pose a threat. This keeps predators in check.
Do not run out of evidence- When the possibility of a video is slim, a voice record always works. Channel your conversation in a direction that will serve as strong evidence when using a voice note.
Once you have this in place, write a report to a suitable legal institution.
For stigmatization, understand your mental health is more stable when the problem is solved than when you keep it in mind. Stigmatization may fade, but sexual harassment trauma never fades until the problem is resolved.