Harassment in any form is illegal and should not be tolerated. And if it’s not stopped at the right time, things may take a turn for the worst. And one of the most common forms of harassment women face is sexual harassment. This happens to most of us not only at work place but in colleges, schools, universities, and now cyber space and social media sites. Don’t you agree ?
Before one can report a problem of sexual harassment, one needs to first understand and be well informed about sexual harassment. By understanding it, the perpetrator can get a better picture of his/her actions and the victim can accept that what she or he went through was not something casual but something as serious as sexual harassment.
What is sexual harassment ? I scanned through several sites to get the actual and correct definition. So here it is according to RAINN ( Rape abuse and incest national network) – ” Sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature in which submission to or rejection of such conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s work or school performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work or school environment. “
What else is sexual harassment ?
1) Unwanted, repeated, deliberate touching, leaning over, cornering or pinching.
2) Unwanted deliberate repeated telephone calls, letters, messages and other materials like images of sexual nature.
3) Unwanted pressure for dates.
4) Physical intrusion into personal and private space.
5) Unwanted sexual teasing jokes, remarks and questions during the conversations.
6) Tricking the victims to reveal personal information about social and sexual life.
7) Unwanted sexual looks or gestures.
8) Touching employees hair, clothing or body.
9) Stalking is also a form of sexual harassment.
Some important points to remember during sexual harassment –
* UNWELCOME is the important word here . A victim may participate in the process because of the relationship she shares with the perpetrator who could be a co worker, client, supervisor and so on.
She/he may rebuke or warn him not to indulge in a particular action of sexual nature. So it’s important to note that only the SEXUAL CONDUCT is unwelcome, whenever the person subjected to it considers it unwelcome. If the victim accepted the date, the comment or joke depends on that particular circumstance or situation.
* The harasser can be of the opposite sex or even of the same sex.
* The harasser can be a close friend, co-worker supervisor, client, customer.
* Women often leave their jobs to avoid further harassment. They may experience health and psychological related problems.
* Sexual harassment is insulting and very offensive to women. They do not enjoy or take pleasure in it.
* Many people are of the opinion that women make up stories to get back at their employers or their harassers , but according to researchers less than one percent of complaints are false. Women rarely file complaints even though they are justified to do so.
* It’s not true that women who dress provocatively invite trouble. Victims of sexual harassment differ in physical appearance, dress, looks and behaviour.
* 99% of sexual harassment victims are women.
* If you ignore this harassment it will not go away. Harassers do not stop harassing until effective steps are taken towards them.
What’s the role of employers ?
Many young girls/ boys who join corporate companies are freshers from colleges. They are not well versed and informed about sexual harassment. They do not know how to respond and what steps to take in such a situation. Most of us ignore the situation because it’s a taboo subject.
I’ve worked for corporate companies, but so far we’ve not had discussions on sexual harassment and how to deal/ respond to it during training sessions. Most companies have male managers. Would a woman be comfortable explaining in detail what she went through ?
There should be proper guidelines and system in place to report sexual harassment and make it easy for victims to report the problem. If the victim is a woman then she should have the freedom to confide the details to a female manager. Employers have equal responsibility to provide a harassment work free environment.
What can women do ?
1) Do not ignore the situation. Harassers do not stop. Confront them.
2) Write a letter/message and tell the harasser that their behaviour makes you feel uncomfortable.
3) Keep a record of the messages and events – the date, time, and place for proof if need arises.
4) Confide the problem to a close friend or a family member.
5) If the situation does not improve then find out the procedures to file a complaint at the work place.
6) If things go out of hand then go the legal way.
Why women do not report sexual harassment ?
1) Women feel that they would be blamed. Blamed for dressing provocatively, blamed for inviting trouble. Blamed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The truth is the violence can occur to any woman irrespective of her dress and behaviour. It can occur at any place at any given time day or night.
2) We are made to believe that it is okay for men to behave in a certain way. Women also think about the outcome and negative consequences. Most women do not like attracting negative attention.
4) It’s also because no woman wants her self respect and dignity to be at stake. No woman would willingly invite stigma. So most of the cases are brushed under the carpet or ignored.
There are several websites that can enlighten and empower us. I’ve collected most of the resources from the websites given below.
Together we can take collective responsibility to eradicate sexual harassment and work towards building a safer environment for women.
Note : Google Images.