Sexual harassment can take many forms:
- verbal abuse which is inappropriate, intimidating, humiliating, or degrading remarks of a sexual nature,
- abusive emails, pin-ups on a wall or something sent in the post,
- repeated unwelcome touch that feels invasive or uncomfortable to you,
- touch that is clearly sexual and offensive to you,
- manipulating, pressuring or forcing you to have sexual contact in return for employment, promotion, or other rewards.
Effects of sexual harassment
As with any form of sexual violence or abuse, sexual harassment can have very serious effects:
- Sexual harassment in the workplace can affect your job and your career and the effects can last for years
- Sexual harassment can affect your mind, emotions and body. People who are being harassed may live in constant fear and this can cause symptoms of post-traumatic stress. More about trauma.
If you are being sexually harassed:
If you are being sexually harassed and you feel frightened or confused by what is happening to you, believe and trust your own feelings. Do not dismiss it or hope it will 'just go away'. It might not. Sometimes harassment starts out with 'small' acts and then builds up into actual sexual assault.
If you have any physical symptoms which you think are connected to the harassment, go to a doctor who will listen and take you seriously. Your local Rape Crisis Centre may be able to put you in touch with an experienced doctor.
Stopping the harassment
- Tell others about the harassment.
- Confront the harasser with the support of your work colleagues or someone you've confided in, and tell them to stop their behaviour.
- Decide whether to take further action if they do not stop.
- Complain to your employer or the person in charge. Many organisations have a policy on professional misconduct and harassment, or an internal complaints procedure.
- Take a case through the Equality Authority, www.equality.ie, in the Republic of Ireland. In Northern Ireland, contact the Equality Commission, www.equalityni.org, for advice and help in how to bring a claim. Remember that in both the Republic and Northern Ireland there are strict time limits on bringing a claim.
- Talk to a solicitor about taking a civil case. Many Rape Crisis Centres will be able to put you in touch with a good local solicitor.
- Contact your local Rape Crisis Centre for support and more information. Find a RCC.