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WHAT IS SEXUAL HARASSMENT?

Trigger warning:

Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature in the workplace or learning environment, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Sexual harassment does not always have to be specifically about sexual behavior or directed at a specific person. For example, negative comments about women as a group may be a form of sexual harassment.

Although sexual harassment laws do not usually cover teasing or offhand comments, these behaviors can also be upsetting and have a negative emotional effect.

FACTS ABOUT SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN THE WORKPLACE FROM THE EEOC:

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations, as well as to the federal government.

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including but not limited to the following:

  • The victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.

  • The harasser can be the victim's supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee.

  • The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.

  • Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.

  • The harasser's conduct must be unwelcome.

It is helpful for the victim to inform the harasser directly that the conduct is unwelcome and must stop. The victim should use any employer complaint mechanism or grievance system available.

When investigating allegations of sexual harassment, EEOC looks at the whole record: the circumstances, such as the nature of the sexual advances, and the context in which the alleged incidents occurred. A determination on the allegations is made from the facts on a case-by-case basis.

Prevention is the best tool to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers are encouraged to take steps necessary to prevent sexual harassment from occurring. They should clearly communicate to employees that sexual harassment will not be tolerated. They can do so by providing sexual harassment training to their employees and by establishing an effective complaint or grievance process and taking immediate and appropriate action when an employee complains.

It is also unlawful to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on sex or for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under Title VII.

YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO FEEL COMFORTABLE IN YOUR PLACE OF WORK OR LEARNING. IF YOU ARE BEING SEXUALLY HARASSED, YOU CAN REPORT IT TO THE AUTHORITIES AT YOUR JOB OR SCHOOL.

The following information is provided by RAINN

WHAT DOES SEXUAL HARASSMENT LOOK LIKE?

Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances. The harasser can identify with any gender and have any relationship to the victim, including being a direct manager, indirect supervisor, coworker, teacher, peer, or colleague.

Some forms of sexual harassment include:

  • Making conditions of employment or advancement dependent on sexual favors, either explicitly or implicitly.

  • Physical acts of sexual assault.

  • Requests for sexual favors.

  • Verbal harassment of a sexual nature, including jokes referring to sexual acts or sexual orientation.

  • Unwanted touching or physical contact.

  • Unwelcome sexual advances.

  • Discussing sexual relations/stories/fantasies at work, school, or in other inappropriate places.

  • Feeling pressured to engage with someone sexually.

  • Exposing oneself or performing sexual acts on oneself.

  • Unwanted sexually explicit photos, emails, or text messages.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND SEXUAL ASSAULT? WHAT ABOUT SEXUAL MISCONDUCT?

Sexual harassment is a broad term, including many types of unwelcome verbal and physical sexual attention. Sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behavior, often physical, that occurs without the consent of the victim. Sexual harassment generally violates civil laws—you have a right to work or learn without being harassed—but in many cases is not a criminal act, while sexual assault usually refers to acts that are criminal. Some forms of sexual assault include:

  • Penetration of the victim’s body, also known as rape.

  • Attempted rape.

  • Forcing a victim to perform sexual acts, such as oral sex or penetration of the perpetrator’s body.

  • Fondling or unwanted sexual touching.

Sexual misconduct is a non-legal term used informally to describe a broad range of behaviors, which may or may not involve harassment. For example, some companies prohibit sexual relationships between coworkers, or between an employee and their boss, even if the relationship is consensual.

WHERE CAN SEXUAL HARASSMENT OCCUR?

Sexual harassment can occur in the workplace or learning environment, like a school or university. It can happen in many different scenarios, including after-hours conversations, exchanges in the hallways, and non-office settings of employees or peers.

WHAT CAN I DO WHEN I WITNESS SEXUAL HARASSMENT?

You may have heard the term bystander intervention to describe stepping in to help if you see someone who might be in danger or at risk for sexual assault. Bystander intervention can also be a helpful strategy if you witness sexual harassment. You don’t have to be a hero to make a positive impact in someone’s life, and you can intervene in a way that fits your comfort level and is appropriate for the situation. If you choose to step in, you may be able to give the person being harassed a chance to get to a safe place or leave the situation. Below are some of the steps you can take if you see someone being sexually harassed—just remember to C.A.R.E., and of course, keep your own safety in mind at all times.

  • Create a distraction. Do what you can to interrupt the harassment, or distract those taking part in the harassment. But remember to make sure that you aren’t putting yourself in danger by doing this. If someone seems like they could become violent, do not draw their attention.

  • Ask directly. Talk directly with the person who is being harassed. If they are being harassed at work or school, offer to accompany them anytime they have to meet with the harasser. If a friend is worried about walking alone to their car at night, offer to walk with them.

  • Refer to an authority. The safest way to intervene for both you and the person being harassed may be to bring in an authority figure. You can talk to another employee, security guard, RA in your dorm, bartender, or bouncer, and they will often be willing to step in.

  • Enlist others. It can be hard to step in alone, especially if you are worried about your own safety or if you don’t think you will be able to help on your own. It may be a good idea to enlist the help of a friend or another bystander.

WHAT ARE SOME EFFECTS OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT?

Emotional effects:

  • Anger

  • Fear

  • Humiliation

  • Shame

  • Guilt

  • Betrayal

  • Violation

  • Powerlessness and loss of control

Mental health effects:

Physical effects:

WHERE CAN I LEARN MORE ABOUT SEXUAL HARASSMENT?

#METOO

After allegations of sexual abuse by Harvey Weinstein and other men within the film and music industries resurfaced, actress Alyssa Milano took to Twitter and encouraged survivors to speak out by using the hashtag "#MeToo" to show the widespread epidemic of sexual violence. Originally, this campaign was created more than a decade ago by activist Tarana Burke who shed light on sexual assault survivors in underprivileged communities. "#MeToo" began to take social media by storm with the participation of millions.

Image by Mihai Surdu
Reuters/Ipsos conducted an online poll of 1,832 people taken Oct. 20-24, 2017 regarding the use of t
Reuters/Ipsos conducted an online poll of 1,832 people taken Oct. 20-24, 2017 regarding the use of t
ABC News/Washington Post Poll: Sexual Harassment; Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017
ABC News/Washington Post Poll: Sexual Harassment; Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017
Pew Research Poll: December 7, 2017:
Pew Research Poll: December 7, 2017:
Pew Research Poll: December 7, 2017:
Reuters/Ipsos poll: December 27, 2017
Reuters/Ipsos poll: December 27, 2017
Reuters/Ipsos poll: December 27, 2017
Reuters/Ipsos poll: December 27, 2017
Reuters/Ipsos poll: December 27, 2017

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