You deserve to be able to go to work, to school or us go about your day without being put in a position that makes you feel uncomfortable or threatened in any way. Unfortunately, all over the world, women are being sexually harassed and suffering the consequences. 

The effects of this harassment can be quite terrible especially when it happens at work where you feel stuck in a no win situation. Fear of losing your job if you report the harassment leads many of these offenders to get away with it. 

There are some steps to take if you feel like you have been sexually harassed. In this article, we will go over what those are. 

Harassment vs Assault

There is a difference between being assaulted and being harassed so the steps to take will depend on the form of the incident. For instance, harassment can include unwanted advances, pressure to take the relationship to a non professional level or making lewd comments that make you uncomfortable. This type of harassment is insidious as the offender can often talk their way out of it. 

When a woman finds herself in a situation like this, she tends to try to ignore it and not cause any problems. There’s an effort to “just be one of the guys” and not let it get to them. But, this type of environment causes erosion in the workplace. It ends up causing a toxic environment in which to work and usually escalates as well. 

What started out as a “harmless” joke then later on becomes an unwelcome advance. Very rarely does an offhand sexual joke stand on its own and is then forgotten. More often, the offender is gauging the reaction to see where the boundary is. Then they slip over the boundary taking things further and further. Until one day, the jokes are far more serious and you wonder if you can continue working there. 

Assault, however, is more physical. It can be in the form of unwanted physical contact, especially in an intimate area. Or, it can be much more serious than that. Many women report being raped by a coworker. The assault could happen at work, but most often it occurs after and in a place where the offender is able to operate. 

If you feel like you have been assaulted then the first step is to seek medical attention. Then you should contact the authorities. After that you should contact your employer. 

Check your Workplace Policy

Your workplace is required to take any reports of sexual harassment seriously. You should have a handbook that gives you the protocol to follow when it comes to reporting. The first thing to do is to follow the steps according to your company’s HR department so that you have all of your bases covered later.

When you contact a lawyer like an Orange County sexual harassment attorney you need to make sure that you have followed the steps according to your workplace’s rules so that you have an easier time when things escalate. 

You will want to make a formal complaint so that your superiors take action to make the environment where you work safe and worry free. 

If your workplace doesn’t have a sexual harassment complaint policy then you have to start out by telling the coworker to stop what they are doing as it is offensive or uncomfortable and is creating a difficult work environment. 

You should also approach your supervisor and let them know about the conversation you had with the offender so they are aware there is a problem. They may also tell you what to do next. If the behavior doesn’t change, then you will need to escalate the situation up the chain of command until something is done about it. 

Keep Detailed Records

Make sure that you are documenting everything as it happens. Write down when the harassment started and if there was anybody around that witnessed it. There may have been something written to you, or some kind of picture posted in the area where you work. Make sure to keep any of these items to be used later as proof. Take a picture if you are not able to take the item down. 

Then, anytime you talk to somebody about it, have a written record of the date of the reporting, who you reported it to and any follow ups regarding the incident. This will help you later when you are interviewed about the problem. Hopefully you have somebody around who witnessed the event or can confirm that there is a general and overall feeling of sexual intimidation by certain people at work. You will need to have somebody else backup your claim if there are others who feel the same way or can corroborate what you are claiming. 

When your supervisor is the one doing the harassment then you may want to check your performance evaluations. If it is clear that your reports start becoming more critical after the point that you’ve started complaining then this could be used as evidence of retaliation which is illegal. 

Get support

Once the issue has been reported and your employer has dealt with the situation, that doesn’t mean that you are expected to move on like normal. 

You are likely feeling vulnerable and traumatised by the experience. It is a good idea to seek some counseling so you have the tools to be able to deal with the consequences. A trained professional will know how to help you so your mental well being is not affected. There are many free services that you can call to talk to somebody. 

It will take some time to recover from the effects of the harassment. Often, women describe PTSD like symptoms stemming from the repeated sexual harassment at work. For some time after the issue has been resolved, it can still be difficult to get through your day to day routine.

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