Sexual Harassment at Work: A Resource for Survivors and Allies
Everyone deserves to be safe when they go to work. Unfortunately, it is estimated that 38% of women in the United States have experienced sexual harassment at their place of employment. Due to fears of retaliation, cases of sexual harassment are woefully under-reported.
Sexual harassment can happen between supervisors and their direct reports, colleagues, or outside contractors hired by an employer. Documented examples of sexual harassment include:
- Comments about physical appearance
- Repeated use of inappropriate or offensive names
- Staring at parts of the body
- Unwanted touching of any part of the body
- Suggestion of or pressure to engage in sexual acts in exchange for mentorship, career advancement, or as a condition of employment
If you have experienced sexual harassment while at work, remember that it is not your fault. The following resources are available for support with workplace sexual harassment or assault:
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
If someone you know reveals that they have experienced sexual harassment at work, here are some guidelines to help you proceed with a supportive conversation:
Acknowledge their experience. Listen with care and consider using affirming phrases like "Thank you for sharing that with me," or "I'm sorry that happened to you, you do not deserve to be treated that way."
Avoid questioning their behavior after the harassment. Sexual harassment is about one person exerting power over another, and it can be very frightening and traumatic. Whether the harassment occurred five years or five minutes ago, asking someone questions such as "Why didn't you report it?" or "Why did you keep working there?" is harmful and perpetuates the cycle of harassment through victim-blaming. No one deserves to be sexually harassed.
Encourage them to contact one of the resources above. Even if they aren't ready to call now, sharing these resources can make a world of difference. Counselors can help survivors prepare a safety plan in instances where the harassment is ongoing and connect them with legal aid if they wish to explore their legal options.
Know that the resources are there for you, too. Learning that someone you know has experienced sexual harassment can be very upsetting. Experts are available to help you too as you process your feelings and learn new ways to be a supportive ally to survivors of workplace sexual harassment.