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Speaking up when silence reigns: Addressing sexual harassment

On Behalf of | Jun 24, 2024 | Sexual Harassment |

When you get a job at a new workplace, the last thing you want to encounter is sexual harassment. Such a dehumanizing experience can be made worse by the realization that sexual harassment has been normalized within the company. The attitudes of fellow employees towards unwanted sexual behavior can make you feel like you should stay quiet about your experience if you want to keep your job.

However, just because explicit and implicit sexual overtones have become ingrained in a company’s culture does not mean you should let yourself be dehumanized. There are steps you can take to address the situation and protect yourself.

What constitutes sexual harassment?

Unwanted pressure for sexual favors can start to feel normal if you work long enough in an environment where such behavior is as “harmless fun” or “just the way things are around here.” If you’re a new hire, you can especially feel powerless and fear retaliation from the organization if you voice your concerns. However, you should remember that it can take just one voice to make the perpetrators realize that not everyone fears judgment for standing up for what is right.

The first step in finding your voice and speaking up for yourself and others who might not have the courage is recognizing the specific behaviors that constitute sexual harassment. Unwanted sexual behavior can be:

  • Persistent and sexually offensive jokes
  • Unwelcome never-ending sexual advances
  • Lewd comments about physical appearance
  • A hostile work environment based on sex

Once you can identify the behavior, you can note down how frequently it happens. If you can establish a pattern that you can back up with evidence, you have the arsenal to fight for a safe working environment.

Report to human resources or management

While it may already seem obvious that the company does not take sexual harassment claims seriously, you should still report your case to human resources or management. Overcoming this intimidating step might actually initiate change throughout the company. If not, the fact that you brought the issue with the company can be invaluable if you decide to escalate the case through a lawsuit.

Addressing sexual harassment in a work environment where it has been normalized is challenging but essential. By recognizing and documenting inappropriate behavior, reporting incidents and seeking legal support, you can take steps to combat this toxic culture.