As more people courageously band together to fight against toxic, threatening, and career-hampering behaviors at their workplaces, many question whether or not they’ve experienced it, too.
Sexual harassment is loosely defined as behavior that’s designed to intimidate, coerce, and create an atmosphere of discomfort and hostility, based around sexually-charged activity.
If you’ve experienced any of the following, then there’s a chance that you’ve either experienced or witnessed sexual harassment in your workplace:
1. You’ve felt that your career depends on compliance
One of the most classic and obvious forms of sexual harassment is when a person has either explicitly or implicitly been told that they’ll need to perform sexual acts in order to advance their careers.
This can include going out on dates with your superior and allowing physical contact. However, this can also include being available to the superior for inappropriate emotional connections. They can also use their authority to keep you inappropriately close to them, such as making you stay at work late alone with them.
2. You’ve been subjected to vulgar jokes or remarks
Sometimes, the harassment isn’t physical: it can also be experienced mentally.
For example, if you’ve heard your fellow employees openly telling vulgar jokes about a person’s physical appearance, or if you’ve heard jokes or comments about a person’s genitalia, then you’ve definitely been exposed to toxic, highly-unprofessional behavior.
The jokes or comments don’t have to be about you, specifically. Even if they’re about another person, they can make you and others experience grave discomfort. Also, the comments can have a crushing effect on the intended target’s personal self-esteem while blocking the target’s opportunities for career advancement.
3. You’ve heard sexual or gender slurs
There are those who aren’t happy about working with people of other genders. Many people nowadays are disgruntled with those who choose to use non-binary gender indentification. As such, they’ll intimidate or humiliate their targets with slurs.
Examples of sexual or gender slurs include the use of hate speech against people who have experienced gender transformations. There are often comments about the individual, or there will be comments about specific parts of their bodies.
Also, the target might find that they’re not able to use the restroom that’s assigned to the gender they currently identify with.
4. You have the right to report incidents
Too many harassment targets suffer in silence, partially because they believe reporting incidents will make them appear to be against the team. They might feel that they’re ruining someone’s career.
The fact is, not only does a target have the right to report incidents, but they should report them. This also applies to anyone who has personally witnessed incidents, even if they weren’t targeted.
5. You might need to consider your employment options
Unfortunately, you might find that the offender has covered their tracks enough not to be fired. And this means that you’ll be forced to continue to work with this person.
You might feel the need to look for another job with another company. But perhaps you’ll be able to ask for a transfer to another department within the same company. Be sure to consider how far you’re willing to go to protect your well-being and your finances if the offender isn’t fired.
6. There’s strength in numbers
Chances are, if you’re experiencing sexual harassment, then others have, too. Talk to others who might be feeling uncomfortable around offenders. Band together to file a report. It’s easy to disregard one report, but it’s very hard to disregard several people banding together.