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Dealing with sexual harassment


Published: Jul 09, 2013

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Sexual harassment, taken literally, is harassment or unwanted attention of a sexual nature. It includes a range of behavior from mild annoyances to serious abuse, which can even involve forced sexual activity. Sexual harassment is considered to be illegal in many countries and is a form of abuse. It is also considered to be a form of bullying.

Jerry was the new office worker. He worked in the sales department. He was married with two children. His employer introduced him to all the employees and showed him where his desk was and allowed him to get to work. After two months of working on the job, Jerry went to his immediate supervisor to report to that two of his co-workers were making him uncomfortable on the job. The supervisor, a man named Bill, asked Jerry what he was talking about. Jerry explained how both a male and female employee would constantly pass his desk and touch his hair when they were saying good morning. Jerry had asked both of them to stop, but they continued to do it. Bill after hearing Jerry’s story told him that they were just being friendly and to ignore it.

Sexual harassment can occur in any environment. Sexual harassment does not only occur in the workplace but also happens at social gatherings, in public areas such as at bus stops, in the street and in clubs, in schools and colleges. Sexual harassment happens to men as well as women.

The offense occurs when a person assaults another in a manner which grossly offends public morality  — e.g. touching breasts or other parts of the body, unwelcome kissing, etc. Actual touching may not be involved. Rude or suggestive language can also be considered sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment in the work place happens to men as well as women. It is a criminal offense for an employer to seek any form of sexual favor as a condition for hiring a person. It is also an offense to threaten dismissal if the sexual favor is not granted. The law works both ways – it is an offense to offer sexual inducement in return for benefit at work. Sexual harassment also occurs in schools and colleges.

Everyone has a right to feel safe and comfortable in the workplace, at school or in whatever environment they are.

Who is the harasser?

• The harasser can be anyone — boss, supervisor, client, co-worker, teacher, student, friend or stranger.

• The victim can be male or female. The harasser can be male or female (The harasser does not have to be of the opposite sex).

• The harasser may be completely unaware that his or her behavior is offensive or constitutes sexual harassment or that his or her actions could be illegal.

How sexual harassment affects the victim

Psychological and health effects that can occur in someone who has been sexually harassed include anxiety and/or depression, sleeplessness, shame and guilt, difficulty concentrating, headaches, lack of motivation, lack of appetite or comfort eating (weight loss or gain), feeling let down or violated, feeling angry or violent towards the perpetrator, feeling powerless or out of control, loss of confidence and self-esteem, withdrawal and loss of trust in people and colleagues and even suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts.

Why people do not report sexual harassment

Many incidents of sexual harassment occur in the workplace and some victims are afraid they will lose their jobs if they report the matter. They also feel that others might place the blame on them if they make a report, or that they will be accused of coming on to the perpetrator. They may also feel that nothing will be done about the harassment.

If it is a friend of the family or relative, there may be a fear that the victim will not be believed.

Many times because behaviors that are practiced or accepted as social behavior, individuals may not always understand that their behavior is offensive and a form of sexual harassment.

Examples of sexual harassment

• Spreading sexual rumors.

• Repeatedly asking out someone who has said no.

• Questioning or commenting on someone's sexuality.

• Telling sexually offensive jokes.

• Displaying sexual pictures.

• Making comments about someone's clothing or body.

• Making rude gestures or noises.

• Touching or rubbing against a person;

• Pressuring someone for a date.

• Giving suggestive looks.

Anyone experiencing sexual harassment can:

• Firmly tell the harasser that the behavior is not acceptable.

• Report the incident to someone in authority.

• Report the matter to the police.

Remember, sexual harassment is not acceptable and you should not have to endure unwanted advances from anyone.

We are one people created equal by God and for the purpose of loving and being loved. Let us work together to heal ourselves, families, communities, nation and world.


• If you would like to talk to someone about sexual harassment, please call 328-0922 or for more information, check out our website at www.bahamascrisiscentre.org.



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