What is sexual harassment?
Sexual Harassment is a violation of a person's civil and constitutional rights. Sexual harassment can be physical, verbal, or non-verbal, including unwanted touching, comments about a person's body or offensive gestures. Most sexual harassment falls into one of the categories below:
- Gender Harassment: Includes put-downs, sexual questions, remarks, gestures, looks, insults, offensive graffiti, or jokes about sex or gender.
- Seductive Behavior: Unwanted or offensive sexual advances
- Sexual Bribery: Solicitation of sexual activity or behavior by promising a reward (promotion, better grades) for the activity
- Sexual Coercion: Pressure for sexual activity or behavior by threats (withholding promotion, lower grades)
- Sexual Imposition: Includes unwanted touching such as patting, pinching, or "accidentally" brushing up against another person's body.
How do you know if it's sexual harassment?
If you feel uncomfortable or threatened as a result of the action, it's probably harassment, regardless of the intent of the harasser. Ways you can recognize sexual harassment:
- Sexual harassment is unwelcome. You feel uncomfortable with this type of attention.
- Sexual harassment leaves you feeling powerless. You fear you may risk your job by protesting the advances.
- Sexual Harassment interferes with productivity. You can't concentrate on your work, or you find yourself neglecting tasks while trying to avoid contact with a harasser.
What can be done to stop sexual harassment?
If you feel you are a victim of sexual harassment, try these steps to stop the harassment and to aid you if legal action becomes necessary.
- Be assertive
- Check with others
- Keep a diary
- Share this information
- Keep documentation of job evaluations
- Find an advocate
If it continues...
- File a complaint
- Seek a new job
- Take legal action
(Reference: "Sexual Harassment: How to Cope," Virginians Aligned Against Sexual Assault.)