Your work environment should be a place of safety where you can show up to do your job without fear of harassment or discrimination. Unfortunately for millions of people across the globe, this is not the case.
Many women and men experience a feeling of unease or discomfort when they go to work and deal with their coworkers or management and they can’t quite figure out why. In a lot of these situations, it’s because they are being sexually harassed at a level so subtle they don’t even realise it until it’s pointed out to them.
If you are dealing with any of these experiences with someone at work, you may be a victim of sexual harassment and you need to put an end to it.
Sexual Harassment is Not Always Obvious
There is something called “hidden,” or subtle, implicit sexual harassment. This type of harassment may leave you feeling uncomfortable immediately but it may not be until later when you realise exactly what happened that you pinpoint why. By that time, you probably feel like there’s nothing you can do about it, yet you’re frustrated and angry.
Implicit sexual harassment can take many forms. Here are just a few ways it can appear in your workplace:
- Sexual innuendos in the form of jokes or stories,
- Questions or discussions of a sexual nature,
- “Compliments” or comments about your clothing or looks that are lewd or blatantly sexual,
- Talking about your sex life to others, even via rumors or lies,
- Physical movements such as following or blocking your path,
- Giving “gifts” or displaying items of a sexual nature,
- Seemingly innocent “touches” such as rubbing up against you or massaging your shoulders without asking and getting consent.
All of these are subtle signs of sexual harassment that might not raise red flags immediately, but the impact of them can linger as an uncomfortable feeling in your gut that something not quite right just happened.
The problem is that these implicit forms of harassment often lead to explicit actions if they are not addressed and stopped.
Stopping Sexual Harassment in its Tracks
There is no leeway in sexual harassment. You need to address a harasser before they continue to subject you and others to their harmful behavior.
To do this, first, you have to confront the person and firmly let them know that you do not appreciate nor do you want their attention to continue. Document your conversation and all of the prior acts that made you feel uncomfortable.
If the harassment continues, you can speak to someone in your human resources department to file an official complaint. Don’t be afraid to speak up, either. Many times, a harasser relies on the embarrassment of their victim to shroud them in secrecy. You are not at fault, and you should not have to worry about hiding.
Call them out on their actions in front of others in a direct, but professional way. Witnesses can benefit you later should they continue or escalate their actions and you have to hire a harassment lawyer.
No matter what, don’t let them scare you into quitting your job or making yourself sick over the actions. Keep a strong, self-respecting persona about you. Stand up straight and send a physical message that you will not allow their actions to make you feel inferior or ashamed.
Sexual harassment is an ancient action that has no place in the world, much less in the workplace. You are protected from this discrimination and you have every right to stand up for yourself.