A lot of women report having experienced sexual harassment at some point in their careers, and most of them don’t actually report it for many reasons. While we hope you never have to go through this, it’s important to have all the info you need so that you know what to do if it does happen to you.
What is it?
Making sexual advancements, requesting sexual favours or enacting any other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, which makes those around you feel uncomfortable, humiliated or intimidated in the workplace counts as sexual harassment. It doesn’t have to happen more than once for it to be considered as harassment - one occurrence is considered bad enough.
Verbal harassment includes:
Cat calling/whistling at someone. Making sexual comments about a person's body. Turning work discussions into sexual conversations. Asking about sexual fantasies or interests. Repeatedly asking a person out even if they aren’t interested.
Non-verbal harassment includes:
Staring at someone until they feel uncomfortable. Blocking a person's path to forcefully get their attention. Showing sexually suggestive visuals. Making sexual gestures using hands or body movements. Making facial expressions (winking, blowing kisses, licking lips).
Physical harassment includes:
Giving unsolicited massages during working hours. Hugging, kissing, patting, or stroking without consent. Touching or rubbing oneself sexually around another person. Standing close or brushing up against another person.
Quid Pro Quo
‘Quid pro quo’ is a Latin phrase for “a favour for a favour” or “tit for tat”, and that’s exactly how this kind of harassment works. This occurs when colleagues, usually those in higher positions, use their power to get sexual favours in exchange for some kind of advancement in the workplace.
Sexual favouritism occurs when a person in a position of power rewards only those who submit to his/her sexual advances.
What to do if you’ve been harassed
The best first step to take if you’ve been sexually harassed is to let the person who’s acted inappropriately know that it’s made you feel uncomfortable and to ask that it never happens again. If that doesn’t work, there are more formal procedures like speaking to someone in Human Resources (HR) or a co-worker that you trust enough to confide in. Once that’s done, your Human Resources officer should start an investigation based on timelines and any evidence you’ve provided to prove that the harassment has taken place. This is important because it helps prevent claims of false accusations. Sexual harassment is serious and should be taken as such.
There are procedures and steps that have to be taken to handle it to the best interest of everybody involved. Your mental health is also important, so seeking help from a therapist is recommended to help you cope.
No one has the right to question why you’ve waited long to report sexual harassment or to make you feel like you deserved the harassment for any reason. So make it a point to report sexual harassment if it does happen to you as it’s not going to just go away, in fact, the perpetrator is likely to repeat it or do it to someone else. If you ever need someone to speak to, Ask CellCgirl is always available to give you some advice and help.