what is sexual harassment?
why victims don't usually report
common victim responses
options for victims of sexual harassment
legal definition of sexual harassment:
unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when:
(1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly
as a term or condition of employment
(2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual, or
(3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of reasonably interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.
behavioral definition of sexual harassment:
to be considered sexual harassment, the behavior in question must be:
if you feel comfortable, speak up and tell the person that you don't like his or her behavior
when you tell dirty jokes i feel angry because i want to be taken seriously, so please don't tell dirty jokes around me.
write a letter to the sexual harasser
you might want to follow this format:
consult a legal advocate or human resources to lodge a formal complaint
the most common response to sexual harassment is for the victim to quit his/her job. when individuals stay, because they want or need their jobs, the typical reactions are (and they are often progressive):
hoping that it is a one-time only incident or that it will stop, people often initially ignore harassment.
employees experiencing harassment attempt to lessen the incidents by avoiding, as much as possible, the harasser. this starts with avoiding the harasser and continues on to avoiding any place that it may be possible for the harasser to be. this strategy has limited success in avoiding harassment and has a costly effect on the work performance and morale of the victim of harassment.
this coping strategy manifests itself by members of the targeted group attempting to become gender neutral -- for women, this means trying to become "one of the boys." the idea is to fit in and not be seen as an object for sexual attention but as just another worker.
for women, this may mean attaching herself to a coworker or someone with more power on the job in the belief that others will then see that she is unavailable. if the victim is married or in a relationship, she or he may flaunt their happily-coupled status as much as possible to show unavailability or lack of interest -- and for women, that they have possible protection outside the workplace.
this is rarely a first step for victims of harassment on the job, except in cases of physical or sexual assault. the protest is usually lodged with the person at work most likely to be sympathetic. if there is no such person, or if protesting to that person does not stop the harassment, the victim will often wait a prolonged period of time before pursuing the protest to a higher authority.
again, most people who are victimized by harassment who can, quit in the first place. unfortunately, when there is no in-house recourse to resolve the problem, the end result is the same.
there are clusters of typical symptoms of victims of sexual harassment. sexual harassment usually manifests itself with symptoms of high stress and anxiety.
job performance symptoms:
job performance suffers as avoidance tactics take up time and attention that otherwise would be spent on work-related items. performance also suffers as the victim's feelings of increased helplessness and hopelessness about the situation impacts morale and productivity, and as a fear of failure and/or ridicule becomes part of the context of doing the job.
depressive symptoms appear both at home and in the workplace, including the victim withdrawing from normal activities, crying easier and/or more often, and experiencing fatigue.
the victim will exhibit signs of high stress and anxiety, which may include "panic attacks." there will be signs of behavior changes, including changes in eating, sleeping, and social patterns. it is common for victims to experience sleep disturbances and nightmares.
the victim will experience a change in viewpoint. the working world is now an unwelcome, hostile place to be. issues around trust and safety develop. current relationships suffer and future relationships may be more difficult to initiate. sexual harassment victims struggle with issues of shame that they could not stop the harassment, that they were powerless in a way perhaps never experienced before.
as noted above, the person who has experienced sexual harassment, especially prolonged and physical violence, will now view the working world differently. often the victim will avoid the type of job in which she or he experienced the harassment. there will most often be a lower level of trust, a lessening of social contacts in the workplace, a different attitude toward presenting her or himself to new employees and supervisors. the long-term effect includes problems with self-esteem in relation to people and to job responsibilities.