How to Deal With Sexual Harassment at Work
Sexual harassment comes in many forms. It could manifest itself as a sexist joke or an unwanted hand on the shoulder. It could be a coworker making advances at the office Christmas party or even something a lot worse. It can happen to people of any gender, age, or job description. And when it happens it can be humiliating, unpleasant, and scary.
No one should have to suffer this kind of discrimination, especially not in the workplace, which should be a safe space. Despite the recent #MeToo movement, in which victims of sexual harassment and abuse called out their attackers, it is still a problem that is not showing any signs of dying out. Up to 85% of American women experienced sexual harassment in the workplace last year.
If you have experienced it in your office, it can be difficult to know what to do. It’s a personal decision that depends on your unique circumstances. You should do what feels right for you. Although the following advice is not a one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with sexual harassment, it provides some options for how to handle the situation.
If your coworkers make unwelcome comments about your appearance or make physical contact without your consent, you could make it clear this is unwelcome. Tell them it’s inappropriate and it makes you uncomfortable, and that if they don’t stop you will have no choice but to report them. In the best-case scenario, they will accept this and never do it again. Of course, there may be situations in which you don’t feel comfortable doing this. Your first and foremost priority is to keep yourself safe. If you find yourself in a situation where you feel threatened or in danger, get yourself out of it however you can.
Document the evidence
As soon as you experience an incident of sexual harassment, you should document it. This makes it easier to recall exactly what happened when you come to report it and will help you in the unlikely event that legal action is taken. Write down inappropriate comments you hear or take screenshots of messages and emails. You could also talk to other people in your office to see if they have experienced similar things and might be willing to provide additional evidence.
It is always a good idea to report sexual harassment, as this is the only way to stamp it out in your workplace. Once you have gathered as much evidence as you can, work out who you need to report to. Depending on the size and structure of your company, this could be either your manager or an HR department. They will take your claim seriously and take further action based on your evidence. If the person you need to report to is the one committing the harassment, or you feel they won’t take your claim seriously enough, you could even seek legal advice. There are many law firms specializing in helping targets of sexual harassment in the workplace.