Dealing with Sexual Harassment: Do’s and Don’ts
Sexual harassment can leave you feeling powerless. But how do you know what is sexual harassment? And how should you deal with it?
Don’t tell yourself that it’s really your imagination working overtime. If something feels wrong to you, it is almost certainly because something is wrong. If you feel uncomfortable with someone making inappropriate comments or gestures, touching you, sending you explicit jokes or e-mails, it’s probably because he/she is harassing you and your instincts are right.
Yes, it is easier said than done, but unless you voice clearly, it’s unlikely that the offender will back off.
So if they get too close to you, say ‘Can you step away please? I like my personal space.’ If they’re touching you, tell them that their hand on your shoulde, for instance, makes you uncomfortable.
Don’t laugh it off or respond with a smile if the harasser is someone you know, let your body language, reactions and expression make it clear that their actions are unwelcome. Speak firmly so that they get the message.
If the sexual harassment is happening in your workplace, do not let anyone convince you that it would be easier to quit your job. Your employers have a responsibility to protect you and have laws and policies in place to deal with sexual harassment cases. Resigning will get you nowhere.
Don’t let yourself be talked into letting the incident go or brushing it off as a small incident. Or give in to the fear of possible social stigma or the worry that you may lose your job. Be brave, report to senior management at your workplace. Or to the police, if it’s not at work.
Make a record of all the incidents, dates and times when the harassment happened so you have evidence to back up your claim. Write everything down in detail, including people you may have spoken to about the incidents and your response to the harassment as well.
Sexual harassment doesn’t just mean full-on groping. It can be suggestive comments or sexual jokes that make you uneasy. Sidelong looks, facial expressions. Sexually loaded SMS messages, e-mails, Facebook messages, online chat.
Just because someone has serious romantic intentions doesn’t give them a licence to sexually harass you – because that’s what they’re doing if they go beyond your limits. And ‘I’m only joking’ is also no excuse.
If it makes you feel uncomfortable, it’s sexual harassment. Especially if it doesn’t stop when you make your feelings clear. If it makes both of you feel good, it’s flirting!
It’s vital to remember that whatever anyone says, it is not your fault. What you wore, said or didn’t say does not make it OK for the offender to harass you.
Harassment and molestation is always the fault of the offender and never of the victim. Nothing you have said or done has made you deserve the assault.
When such cases come to light, society and sometimes even the police tends to blame the victim, questioning their morals, values, and character. Don’t let it get you down or feel ashamed. Nothing you said or did means that you ‘asked for it’.
Being sexually threatened can be extremely damaging to you mentally and emotionally. Don’t be afraid to talk to your friends and family about it. You will need all the backing and encouragement you can get.
Seek help if you need it. Going to a therapist to come to terms with the trauma and put it behind you can help you tremendously. Counselling from a trained professional will provide you with the support you need.