Sexual harassment is a common occurrence in the workplace. Furthermore, contrary to what many think, females are not the only staff who are the receiving end of sexual harassment.
Many male employees have been victims. Often sexual harassment gets fuzzy because it can be open to interpretation. But, on average, there’s a consensus that some of the behaviors of sexual harassment take on a certain pattern.
What does sexual harassment look like?
“Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances. The harasser can identify with any gender and have any relationship to the victim, including being a direct manager, indirect supervisor, coworker, teacher, peer, or colleague,” writes staffers at Rainn.
The following list was adapted from their website.
Some forms of sexual harassment include:
- Making conditions of employment or advancement dependent on sexual favors, either explicitly or implicitly.
- Physical acts of sexual assault.
- Requests for sexual favors.
- Verbal harassment of a sexual nature, including jokes referring to sexual acts or sexual orientation.
- Unwanted touching or physical contact.
- Unwelcome sexual advances.
- Discussing sexual relations/stories/fantasies at work, school, or in other inappropriate places.
- Feeling pressured to engage with someone sexually.
- Exposing oneself or performing sexual acts on oneself.
- Unwanted sexually explicit photos, emails, or text messages.
Every 68 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. And every 9 minutes, that victim is a child. Meanwhile, only 25 out of every 1,000 perpetrators will end up in prison.More Statisticsaccording to Rainn
In addition, Rinn noted the after-effects of sexual harassment such as:
- Powerlessness and loss of control
- Panic attacks
- Difficulty concentrating
- Loss of motivation
- Substance abuse
- Suicidal ideation
- Increased stress levels
- Sleep disturbances
- Eating disturbances
Let’s say sexual harassment took place, a plan of action is warranted.……..
Steps in dealing with sexual harassment
The law requires the victim to initiate action within 180 days. Sexual harassment is unlawful in the United States. Victims may need to file a complaint. Also, Employees who feel they have experienced sexual harassment may forward an official complaint to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
#1. Determine if the action qualifies as harassment
Not every gesture or comment in the workplace qualifies as sexual harassment in the eyes of the law. So, before you take action, first determine if it will qualify as sexual harassment. For example, the person for whom the comment is made must be offended otherwise it won’t qualify as sexual harassment.
But this is where it gets tricky because although the potential victim might view the incident as harmless, others might find it offensive and determine that the gesture or comment has crossed the line. Also, take the issue of immigrants, they are also subjected to sexual harassment but are oftentimes forced to downplay the problem.
“Many undocumented women and men refrain from filing a complaint as they are threatened with being reported to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS),” writes Ana Nogales, Ph.D. at psychology today.
She adds, “It is important to remember that these threats have absolutely no merit. Conversely, when an individual falls victim to such behavior, they can solicit a U-Visa, which is a temporary visa granted to some victims of criminal activity who have assisted law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activities. However, it is necessary to demonstrate the authenticity of the facts, as a false accusation is punishable by law.”
#2. Go through standard procedures
If you can talk to the individual personally speak up immediately it may solve the problem. However, if the behaviors continue, or you feel intimidated talking to the person, file an official complaint. Many organizations have standard procedures for reporting sexual harassment.
The complaint filing procedure will most likely be in the employee guidebook of your organization. Don’t wait too long to act as time is of great essence here. Once you filed an official complaint, exercise patience.
Also, while filing a complaint may be verbal, it is essential that you put it in writing; having your complaint on paper ensures adequate documentation for future reference. Furthermore, in your notebook, please keep details such as the type of complaint, date, type of action that took place, and name of the person involved.
#3. Decide if you will hire an attorney
There may be no reason to involve an attorney if your company addresses the complaint. But if they take no action, you might as well hire an attorney. An attorney will cost you but more important is your mental health and the fact that you deserve respect. Also, keep in mind that if the case goes to court and you win, you will get reasonable compensation.
Possible dangers of filing a sexual harassment claim
Now, there are dangers in filing a complaint. For example, supervisors might engage in retaliation behaviors that could lead to the consequences of:
- Reduction in pay
- Loss of benefits
- Denial of a promotion
- Constructive discharge
Yes because you will put your company on notice,. But more importantly, the offender will understand you mean business, not to mention you will walk away with your pride knowing that you took one step closer to tackling an issue where many are impacted daily.