Sexual Harassment During 2017

In 2017 sexual harassment became one of the most talked about topics. The first spark to the flame was the Harvey Weinstein harassments; dozens of celebrities came forward and spoke about their unfortunate experiences with Mr.Weinstein. This started a domino effect of other victims coming forward against their attackers, and it began to open our eyes to the realities of harassment. Campaigns like #MeToo, started by Tarana Burke, helped to bring awareness to sexual harassment/assault and start a discussion amongst other people who have been affected. We watched the conversation around assault turn from something we were supposed to keep quiet to talking about something that has zero tolerance. Unfortunately, just because the conversation around sexual harassment is shifting doesn’t mean it will end altogether. So here are ways to move forward into the new year and be able to recognize, report, and heal from harassment/assault…

What is Sexual Harassment?

According to the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission), by law, sexual harassment is defined as:

“Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of sexual behavior when submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment, or submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for employment decisions affecting such individual, or such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.”

How to Recognize Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment isn’t always easy to recognize; society makes us feel like if we are feeling harassed that our feelings are invalid or we’ve misread the situation. If you or a coworker is in a situation that feels uncomfortable or inappropriate, take it as your 1st red flag. These situations can including (but aren’t limited to) inappropriate comments, touching, requests, or questions involving one’s personal/sexual life. Recognize this situation and take into account that this is a person you should stay wary of. If the situation persists for a second time and you are confident that you are being harassed, speak up tell them you want them to stop and won’t hesitate to take action. Unfortunately, people are willingly ignorant to the words “stop” or “no”, so if this situation has entered the 3rd strike I urge you to file a report against this person immediately.

How to Report Sexual Harassment

Don’t be afraid to speak out to your employer about sexual harassment, the law is on your side. It is illegal to retaliate against a worker who is claiming sexual harassment, and if they do they will be under investigation as well. When filing for sexual harassment, go to your human resources department and have a list of instances of harassment written down. If you have any evidence of harassment be sure to bring it with you as well. Don’t be hesitant to speak up about what has happened or stray away from any details. Human resources are here to help you, especially dealing with an incident as serious as this. If your report isn’t being taken seriously, go to the police and file a report against your employer and co-worker because both of their actions are against the law.

How to Heal From Sexual Harassment

Severe (or even “little”) sexual harassment/assault incidents can take a toll on your mental and emotional state. The first step to recovering is accepting and validating what has happened to you. Do not belittle yourself or doubt what has happened, you must recognize your experience and work to become a stronger you. The victim is never the one to blame; you are not lesser because of what has happened to you. If you find yourself becoming disconnected and depressed, go seek a counselor (or a friend) and voice what has happened to you. Speaking about your experience is often a great way to gain closure. If you have a friend who is a victim of harassment/assault, stand by their side and listen to what they have to say. Assure them of their worth and be a shoulder they can unconditionally lean on. If you notice your friend is becoming withdrawn or depressed, help them find the resources they need to recover.

Sexual Harassment Hotlines and Resources: http://www.feminist.org/911/harass.html