Sexual harassment is behaviour towards someone of a sexual nature that is not welcomed by that person. The vast majority of people who experience it are woman. Estimates suggest that half of women in employment have been subjected to sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment is often legitimised by phrases like ‘just a bit of fun’, ‘I was only being friendly’, or ‘where’s your sense of humour’, but it is really the abuse of power. It is very serious and a criminal offence.
There are many forms of sexual harassment, usually divided into three categories, verbal, non-verbal and physical. Here are some examples.
- Comments about your appearance, body or clothes
- Indecent remarks
- Questions or comments about your sex life
- Requests for sexual favours
- Sexual demands
- Promises (or threats) concerning your employment in return for sexual favours
- Looking or staring at your body
- Display of sexually explicit material, such as calendars, pin-ups, magazines or websites
- Indecent emails, texts or instant messages
- Inappropriate messages, images or videos up-loaded to websites such as social networking sites
- Touching, pinching, hugging, caressing, kissing
- Sexual assault
If you have been sexually harassed, you may recognise some (or many) of these behaviours. Many women (even those on the receiving end) try to treat the verbal and non-verbal forms of harassment as insignificant, and dismiss them as nothing more than workplace banter.
But all forms of sexual harassment can make your life very uncomfortable and often extremely unpleasant. Sometimes they can build in frequency and severity and become more difficult to deal with.
If you have experienced sexual harassment, you may feel in some way to blame, possibly dirty and compromised or even complicit in the behaviour. You should not have to feel like this, and if you want to do something about it, we can help.
If you need information, counselling or support of any kind to help you deal with sexual harassment, please contact us.