The issue of sexual harassment in the workplace remains for the most business companies a ‘hidden’ problem. Have you ever experienced sexual harassment, and do you know what can you do stop it?
It is estimated that 50% of women in employment are, or have been, subject to sexual harassment. Sexual harassment in the workplace doesn't just happen to women who work in large offices or those who work within a predominantly male working environment.
Sexual harassment is present everywhere. It can happen to man and woman in any occupation, to any age group, and from every community. It doesn’t matter are you man or woman, it can happen to you too.
Can You Define Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment in the workplace considered any unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature. It's not about friendship or fun, it is about the abuse of power. It takes many forms but can be categorized into 3 main groups: Verbal, Nonverbal and Physical.
Verbal Sexual Harassment
Verbal sexual harassment can be very hurtful and affect a victim just as seriously as non-verbal and physical harassment.
Some types of verbal behavior that might constitute sexual harassment:
• Questions about your sex life • Suggestive or insulting sounds such as whistling, wolf calls or kissing sounds • Comments about your sex life like repeated unsolicited propositions for dates and/or sexual relations • Abusive, hostile, or rude words about one sex • Questions and Comments about your weight, body shape, size, figure or clothes • Indecent remarks • Requests for sexual favors • Promises or threats concerning a person's employment conditions in return for sexual favors • Sexual demands
Non-verbal Sexual Harassment
Non-verbal sexual harassment often coming together with verbal sexual harassment. Examples of nonverbal behaviors that might be considered sexual harassment:
• Looking or staring at a person's body ( looking a person up and down) • Holding or eating food provocatively • Licking lips or teeth, winking or throwing kisses • Touching oneself sexually • Persistent and unwelcome flirting • Display of sexually suggestive or degrading materials • Giving sexually suggestive “gifts”. • Physical Sexual Harassment
Physical Sexual Harassment
Unwanted physical contact at the workplace is always considered to be sexual harassment or even criminal acts. Examples of unwanted physical contact that might be considered sexual harassment:
• Physically touching, pinching, hugging, caressing, kissing • Brushing against a person’s body • Blocking a person’s movement • Attempted or actual kissing or fondling • Pranks such as exposing underwear or parts of the body • Sexual assault
How to Deal with Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Sexual Harassment will affect different people in different ways. An individual’s perception of what is, or is not sexual harassment, adds greatly to the complexity of the sexual harassment issue.
But even low-level sexual harassment have the potential to make the most resilient people unproductive and unhappy. It will undoubtedly have an impact on their working day or even their life after work. Many women are not sure who to turn to when they are being harassed.
There are several methods that can be used to stop sexual harassment.
You need to speak up. This is not a time to be polite or vague. Consider the possibility that the harasser may not realize that a particular behavior is offensive. Describe how you felt about it and state clearly and firmly to a person that you want that particular behavior to stop. Send a written message to the harasser by email to stop and make a record of it.
Talk with someone from human resources department for further help and guidance if you feel you cannot speak up. You will get information and support. These people can provide advice about your company’s policy and procedures and can help to resolve the problem.
Strategic planning. Keep records about sexual harassment. Save any letters, e-mail, or notes you have about the situation if the harassment persists. Record dates, places, times, witnesses and the nature of the harassment - when it was, what was said, and how you responded. Keep the names of other people who have witnessed the harassing behavior.
Contact the police. In extreme circumstances, you might need to file for a restraining order to keep your harasser away. If you’re being harassed and you feel you're in danger you can contact the police.
Strong Anti-harassment Policies in Place is The Best Protection
The strongest predictor for sexual harassment in a workplace is whether there is widespread tolerance for this kind of treatment. The best protection for men and women are companies that have strong anti-harassment policies in place.
Remember that sexual harassment in the workplace often occurs when there is a disparity of power. Be aware that it is not just young, “attractive” females who are sexually harassed. Also, any romantic or sexual relationships between people in positions of power or authority over others constitute an abuse of power and are, by definition, abusive.
If you have experienced sexual harassment or suspect that someone you know might be involved in a situation of harassment, a few simple words calling out this behavior can make a big difference. Act now, before it’s too late.