Did he touch you inappropriately? Beware of Sexual harassment in the workplace

Updated: 7 months ago
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You may have noticed that women who travel in trains and buses are often groped at, in the mob-pushing and prodding. Sex-starved men stand close to these unaware and ignorant ladies and grab an excuse to rub against them, touch their body parts or pull at their clothes. Passersby helplessly watch on, minding their own business, as these nasty perverts take advantage of the crowd and close proximity. The vulnerable looks and the distressed persona of the women are pitiful but other travelers look on with closed eyes. This lusty and vulgar behavior is tolerated and ignored!

Is this defiant attitude evident only in rowdy areas or do we see it in our daily lives? Should we accept this behavior or brand it as inconsiderate and brash? Sadly, this disgraceful, appalling, and shameful behavior is reported from many offices, educational institutions and corporate houses as well (Harassment at Work).

Getting cornered, brushed across, and touched in small alleys, doorways or office rooms can be very irritating and threatening, especially if these lecherous acts are followed by hungry lewd looks and comments. Consensual interaction between two people such as friendly relations or flirting with each other is labeled as healthy and acceptable, but when a person feels intimidated, offended, and humiliated because of unwelcome sexual advances it can be termed as sexual harassment.

What is sexual harassment?

  1. Uninvited and unsolicited sexual behavior whether it is verbal, physical or written online, or on paper can be very offensive to the harassed and is definitely against the law.
  2. This molesting and touching is certainly not consensual communication, is it? It is not friendship and it is definitely crossing the acceptable flirting line. It is deplorable behavior in a work-related atmosphere. It may be happening in a corporate event or in office premises but it definitely has the ability to disturb the general work functioning of dedicated employees or even the employer in some cases.
  3. Many people share a common space at the workplace and there has to be a modicum of restraint. Networking and co-operating behavior need to be unsullied and impeccable. Taking sexual digs or trying to touch a co-worker inappropriately or ask them to stay behind their time limit to attempt a sexual touch is wrong.
  4. Behavior that is intolerable, objectionable, or mutually not agreeable to both parties and which disturbs the professional productivity of a workplace can be categorized under sexual harassment.

People who have mastered the art of harassing a co-worker sexually are smooth operators and may escape the notice of others because they never strike their victim in the open. These acts are done specifically with a purpose! Sometimes acts are done to satisfy personal urges and sometimes they are aimed to dominate others, but such kinds of people don’t want any witnesses to their lewd actions. Many harassing people indulge in sexual advances for their ego-boosting or to prove a point to their other colleagues. They have mastered the art of “casual but lascivious touches”.

What are the different ways of sexual harassment?

  1. Men and women can be a target of lustful and lecherous glances, comments, and touch, so be on your guard now!
  2. Everyone has a personal and private space that can be easily violated by physical, verbal, and non-verbal suggestive behavior displayed by a co-worker. Sly and snide passes made without the permission of a colleague can be considered disrespectful and upsetting.
  3. Talking freely about sex, making sexist remarks, unwelcome comments about body parts or body, and any other kind of sexual assault are unfavorable attitudes in an office environment or work community.
  4. Eccentric crank calls, passing insinuations, asking for phone sex, teasing about body parts are categorized as sexual harassment.
  5. Displaying nude pictures, showing pornographic videos, using foul language, making physically suggestive actions through smartphones or mails can threaten the natural personal space of co-workers.
  6. Making sex-related remarks or passing sexual comments is not acceptable behavior to all.
  7. Expecting sexual favors in exchange for promotions, salary or bonus increments, workplace advancements, improvement of grades, jobs, recommendations, etc is taking advantage of the helplessness of a needy co-worker.
  8. Grabbing a co-worker forcefully, demanding physical or sexual contact, pawing, hitting, pinching, touching, groping, or kissing against the will are all labeled as the worst sexually provocating scenarios in a workplace!
  9. Sexual advances can also be the silent brooding kinds. Constantly staring at the victim and her body, bombarding emails or letters making suggestive comments, following the victim around incessantly with sexual intent in mind can be very very scary. It’s not comfortable to know that there is a threat to your personal safety lurking nearby.

These sexual advances are always made in private and start as a casual brush of the body followed by a load of apologies. You may not even realize but your tormentor may be standing beside you offering consolation by staring deep into your eyes and reach out to grab you smoothly from your back, taking you unawares. By the time you realize this, the incidents become uncountable and the damage is done already. Learn to recognize the touch; learn to recognize the body language.

  • Is he or she too close?
  • Is he or she bending towards you to speak very close to your face?
  • Is the action involving a frequent touch?
  • Has your personal space been crossed?
  • Are you being stared at regularly and then flashed the biggest smile ever when you catch the tormentor at it?

Who makes sexual advances?

  1. Workplaces demand respectability and propositioning or approaching a co-worker in a sexual capacity when the other person is alone can be very annoying mentally and physically.
  2. A sexual advance is made by a person who feels superior and is unable to understand the modicum of respectability and personal space. You may have heard of the expression “casting couch” which is commonly used to describe the misuse of a powerful position by an employer.
  3. Very often mentors turn into body gropers. A person who offers academic, vocational, spiritual, or personal counseling in a pretentious manner may actually be demanding sexual commitments indirectly. The hidden demands or favors are then openly pressed for.
  4. It is important to understand that sexual harassment need not be driven by hierarchy. It can happen to anyone, anywhere and there may be no “senior or boss” involvement. Any kind of discomfort in the presence of another co-worker needs to be noted and taken care of.
  5. Sometimes there is an indirect competition for a co-worker’s attention. When a proposal is rejected, irritation and dejection take over and the hurt person ends up behaving irrationally.
  6. Nymphomaniacs are just another ordinary set of people who are sex-starved and unable to deal with their sexual urges when they come in contact with the person they are attracted to! They ogle for the attention of their victim and start making sexual comments to attract attention.
  7. Bullies also use their sexual powers to show their co-workers down. They feel superior and more important when they achieve their target and trouble a co-worker in a sexual manner.
  8. Many times sexual harassment is because the opponent has been pushed away by the victim. The person can’t bear rejection and plans on taking sexual revenge. It starts with verbal approaches like cracking vulgar sexual jokes, speaking obscene language, and then takes a physical turn. This shows up as grabbing, forcing, groping, or catching a person in dark alleys, storerooms, basement parking, etc.
  9. The sexual objectives and physical goals are not obvious in the beginning but as time passes the real intentions start to become evident and manifest themselves in “inappropriate actions” like flicking hair back, breathing down the neck, grabbing a hand, or touching the backs, chest region or hips at the earliest opportunity.
  10. In some cases, the employer has also been threatened sexually by an employee for financial and promotional purposes.

The scared and weak colleagues cannot stare at this sexually deviant behavior in the eye and keep running away from it. They pretend like it never happened and feel helpless because they can’t do anything about it. Mental and physical safety is threatened and they start staying petrified and threatened. It makes the tormentor feel powerful, superior, and crazy. This kind of blasphemous behavior deserves to be punished.

What are the results of sexual harassment?

  1. It may surprise you but chronic sexual harassment has severe repercussions- it’s akin to sexual assault and rape because it leaves a deep disturbing impact on the mental state of mind of the victim.
  2. The feeling of “helplessness” and being a “nobody” starts to dominate the mind and the self-esteem is badly badgered.
  3. Professional performance is affected and the victim starts to shirk work.
  4. Fear and terror sets in
  5. The situation starts to rule and the victim feels dirty, frustrated, guilty, and humiliated
  6. Many victims end up quitting their jobs because they are unable to deal with the situation.
  7. Frequent headaches, health issues, depression, panic and anxiety attacks, or acute tiredness may become common health complaints.
  8. A feeling of guilt or being used can make a person feel helpless.

How to combat sexual harassment?

  1. The first step to stopping sexual harassment is to recognize that anyone intruding your personal space is committing a crime and needs to be punished. Start understanding the legal implications and judicial laws that can deal best with an aggressor.
  2. A mutual interaction will make you feel comfortable so if anyone misbehaves needs to be punished. Put up a fight and make it evident that you dislike sexual or physical closeness of any kind.
  3. Do not ignore unwelcome advances and lewd behavior at any cost. Have a direct face to face confrontation with the harasser threatening to expose his acts. If he retreats and regrets his actions, good, if not report it to the authorities.
  4. Sexual harassment is punishable and the best way to get the tormentor punished is to start gathering evidence against him or her. Smartphones have amazingly good features like a voice or video recorder and the victim can make a file of the emails and messages sent by the co-worker. Make double copies so that you don’t lose the data ever and be ready to present it when needed.
  5. Don’t worry if your boss starts to pick on you or hand you loads of work after you have reprimanded him for his horrid actions. Things will turn around. Move around in a group so that your nasty co-worker does not get a chance to catch you alone.
  6. Isolation, hostility, and character denigration will be a part and parcel of the backlash thrown by the teaser. The atmosphere may become intimidating. But remember these acts are a violation of your privacy, do not give in, be bold, face it, there is always a way out.
  7. Life may become terrible for a while but don’t lose confidence. Start documenting incidents and gather witnesses to present to your supervisor.
  8. Make a support group. Your tormentor will definitely have tried his hand at someone else in the workplace also. Gang up and scare him or her away!
  9. NGO’s are extremely helpful and can take a stand for you especially if the harassment data is calibrated and displayed in an organized manner. They can come in handy if the management is not willing to take up the cause. These recognized organizations have Police contacts and can help in case the harassment becomes serious or life-threatening.
  10. Offices have policies dealing with such issues and these are mentioned in the office memorandum. Logbooks, letters to the owner of the company, or complaints can be drafted for the safety of the victim.
  11. Warn your stalker off by threatening to take his actions to the authorities or court for disciplinary action. No one wants to ruin their career and the misbehaving person will surely take a back seat!
  12. In case of the absence of tangible evidence, frequently displayed misbehavior and testimony of other witnesses can be used to bring the misbehaving person under the law. But you need to report the incident at the earliest because there is a prescribed time limit under which the complaint will be attended to.
  13. Blogs, Messaging services, networking sites, hand-delivered letters, phone calls carrying useless sexual comments or lustful photographs/sounds are proof enough to get the person prosecuted. 

One single incident of “crossing the line” is enough to be labeled as sexual harassment. “Nip it in the bud and don’t let it go further”- needs to be your official Mantra. Society demands a total eradication of sexual harassment to save a woman or man’s dignity and is slowly creeping towards this goal, make sure you don’t close your eyes and complain about it in time.

I have tried to compile everything in this article but there is plenty happening out there that we have no idea about. You also must have faced some terrible moments at the workplace that left you helpless and very very angry. How did you deal with them? Can you share some pointers for us in the comment section so that all our readers benefit from this article and never have to face a harassing situation like this in their workplace? Let’s nip this from the root and make our corporate homes a better place to work in, let’s work together to deal with sexual harassment effectively. Pick your pens and share now!

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