If you have or are currently being sexually harassed at work, you may be feeling incredibly unsafe when you are working. Every single person has the right to feel comfortable at work, and if you are being sexually harassed by someone, it is important that you speak out, so that you can start to feel safe again.
If you are thinking about reporting sexual harassment, here are some things you need to know.
Understand what sexual harassment is
Before we dive in, it is important that you understand the difference between sexual harassment and sexual assualt.
Sexual harassment is a broad term, and can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for physical favours and other various forms of verbal and physical sexual attention. Sexual harassment can also include when someone is harassed because of their gender. Sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behavior, often physical, that occurs without the consent of the victim.
Anyone can be harassed. It is most commonly women being harassed by men, but it can be the other way round and can someone of the same sex could be harrassing you.
Harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).
How can sexual harassment effect you
Sexual harassment can cause many surviors to face physical, emotional and mental health issues. Here are some of the effects of sexual harassment:
- You may be feeling these emotions: fear, anger, shame, worry, betrayal.
- You may be suffering from depression, anxiety or even PTSD as a result of being sexually harassed.
- Physically, you may be feeling exhausted, stressed and may even be suffering from headaches.
How to report sexual harassment
If you are being sexually harassed at work, it is first important that you tell someone. Whether it will be your boss or your colleague, they will then be able to help you file a report. Your employer may be able to deal with this sexual harassment by themselves, through legal methods, and will be able to sort this issue out. You can also report sexual harassment via the EEOC (Equal employment opportunity commission). If you report via the EEOC, you have 180 days from the incident to report, and federal employees have 45 days to contact an EEO counsellor.
What happens next?
Once you have filed a report, your employer or the EEOC will investigate this allegation of sexual harassment. They will look at the whole case, such as the circumstances and the nature of these sexual advances. They will then determine, based on all the facts that they have, if sexual harassment has indeed occurred.
If you are struggling to fight your case, you and your employer should consider getting legal advice from a professional like Cohen Schneider.
Know that this is not your fault
When someone is sexually harassed, they often believe that it is their own fault, or that they could have done something to prevent. While it can be difficult to come to terms with what has happened/is happening, it is incredibly important that you remember that this is not your fault. Moreover, even if you are scared, you should speak out. Talk to your best work friend or a trusted colleague if you are scared of going directly to your supervisor. Everyone will be willing to help you report your harassment so that you can seek justice for this traumatic event.