Especially in the employment big picture, sexual harassment in the office often makes the victim feel powerless. Many victims are even told that there is nothing they can do about the harassment so they should just be quiet and tolerate it. In reality, there is much that a sexual harassed victim can do to put a stop to the problem, including informal actions at the workplace and formal steps like filing a lawsuit against the responsible parties.
- Speak Up
In many sexually harassed cases, especially those involving a hateful work conditions, the responsible parties may not realize that their behavior is offensive. If you are a victim of sexual harassment in the office, your first step toward resolving the problem should be to let the offending party know that you find their behavior offensive. In many cases this will resolve the problem, as the offensive behavior will stop out of an honest concern for everyone’s thoughts and feelings, or out of a strong desire to avoid further workplace tension. If the issue isn’t resolved at this stage, you have at least put the sexual harasser on a warning list that you find his or her behavior offensive.
- Tell Them to Stop
The first time someone does something you object to, tell them “stop!” Say it loud enough for others to hear for extra importance and focus. Never apologize or make excuses for the offender.
- Document It or Report It Immediately
Sexual harassment in the office or anywhere else, is wrong, illegal and deserves to be looked into. But if you feel in your best judgment you have handled things in steps one and two above at least document the date, time, place, what happened, your action, and the harasser’s response. If it ever happens again to you, or to someone else at work, you will have a history to refer to.
- Report It Immediately If Touching Is Involved
Never let sexual touches or demands for sex go unreported. Touching in a sexual manner is sexual attack. Document the event and immediately report it to management.
“A sexual attack has been committed when an individual engages in a sexual activity without the clear permission of the other individual involved. Sexual activity is any touching of a sexual or other intimate part of a person for the purpose of pleasing sexual desire of either party.
- Call the Police
If you have been sexually attacked, you have the right to call the police and report it as a crime. Never let guilt or a desire to protect your attacker keep you from strongly expressing your rights. You have done nothing wrong, and someone who gets away with one instance may continue the harassment which could increase into a more violation crime, like rape.
- Hire a Lawyer If You Have Been Harmed
If you report harassment and as a result, lose your job or are demoted, you may wish to contact a civil rights attorney. Or, if you report the event to management and they do not take appropriate steps to try to find the truth about and stop sexual harassment in the office – call a lawyer.
Federal laws protect your rights to work in surrounding conditions free from sexual harassment. A good civil rights attorney can advise you if you have a case and what legal steps to take to sue your harasser or employer in civil court.
If you are physically hurt by an attacker, you should call the police immediately then contact a lawyer as soon as possible to document evidence you may need later to prove your case.
- Get Help – Find Support
Victims often blame themselves in some way, or others may say a victim was “asking for it.” If you have been very upset, consider joining a support group or get professional counseling. It helps some victims feel empowered again if they become proactive in an organization that seeks to end discrimination.