How To Handle Sexual Harassment
I believe that the late Nancy Reagan had it all wrong. You don't "JUST SAY NO" to drugs, because it's not as relevant of an urgency compared to when someone is harming you mentally or physically. My stance is you JUST SAY NO to sexual offenders, whether it be your boss, co-worker or anyone who makes you feel unsafe in any environment. As we are all facing the eye opening realization of how men of high leaderships from Hollywood to Capitol Hill have throughout the years have continuously taken advantage of women, we need to accept that it happens in every industry.
I experienced sexual harassment during my early twenties in a most rapid work environment of what is the restaurant industry. Yes, my male boss would make lewd comments about the length of my skirt. Yes, there was never a lack of sexual slangs thrown about when picking up food at the pantry line. Yes, male patrons tried to come on to me in the most vulgar of ways. Yes, I felt somewhat helpless, because when you're young and you work in a restaurant, it feels like it comes with the territory. As soon as I landed my first real office job, I was more than happy to be out of that testosterone jungle of smiling underneath anger. But, I hit the realization that the male sexual predator is everywhere. An older male executive took it upon himself to faux mentor me, which in its obvious form was just him trying to get me to sleep with him. Again, I was young, no guidance, and the term sexual harassment was still a taboo topic. And I needed that job. Yet, I was too stubborn in thinking that no job is worth a man belittling my worth just because he can. So, one evening after a work event and the older male exec invited me up to his hotel room for a "night cap" (can you be more grandpa), I said "No." Followed with "gotta meet some friends" and I remember the subtle expression on his face, the rejection stung and I was proud of myself.
But, I know better now and want the women in their twenties who are just entering the workforce to know that you should "JUST SAY NO" or even a FUCK YOU or GET YOUR HANDS OFF ME OR I'LL REPORT YOU. Any of those work. Now, that we're in the digital age of Smartphones and where anything can become a viral sensation on YouTube, women have no choice but to be stronger and know what their options are.
WHAT IS THE HARASSMENT?
Define what exactly is happening to you. You know when you're deeply into a murder mystery on TV and you have to keep watching and figuring out all the clues and who's the victim and the culprit? Apply that to your situation. If it feels all too surreal that it is in fact happening to you, confirm it to yourself, make it real. Let that be the first step.
Dig into your company handbook to learn where they stand on sexual harassment. Make valid, explicit notes and evaluate how it applies to your situation.
CONFIDE IN SOMEONE
It's time to open up, because going through it alone does not help you and you may be condoning the behavior of your male predator. Tell a friend, a co-worker, a family member, anyone that you trust or can relate to your predicament. Just don't bottle it up. The more it's known and out there in the universe, the quicker karma gets to know about it (right?).
STICK UP FOR YOURSELF
This is also my rule for handling a bully. Technically, isn't that what he is doing? Bullying you into his needs, his wants with no consideration of the ethics or plain human courtesy. You should always stick up for yourself. Why? Because you can't and shouldn't expect anyone else to do so for you. It is an empowering move that once you act upon it, everything can seem minuscule and you then hold the power. Get it out in the open with brutal, but strong one liners, "I don't feel safe around you." "This is against company policy, I don't have to take it."
We've all watched one too many Law & Order SVU episodes to know that evidence is major key. If you know that you have be around this person, always make sure your phone is charged and maybe keep it on the voice record mode - just to be safe. Keep a log or journal to record specific days, location and times of occurrences, make a visual timeline. Email your video or voice recordings to yourself or someone you trust for safe keeping until you have to report it. I know this point starts to sound a bit Jason Bourne, but face the facts, your rights in the workplace are being abused. Know that if it happens to you, it happens to other women.
If you see something, say something. If something unwarranted is happening to you, say something. Now that you have proper evidence to back up your truth make it official and have a formal, private sit down with HR and report it. If you have gone this far, please know that you are no longer the victim, because you're actually working to solve the problem and preventing it from happening to others. In some companies, they offer anonymous tips or reporting. If you need to further the case, look into how to file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. There are laws that protect your rights in the workplace.
When women climb the ladder, it's evident that we must crawl over serpents to get to the top. Don't ever feel ashamed, don't fall as a victim. There will always be a boys club. But, keep affirming to yourself that being sexually harassed at work is not what you signed up for and it is 100% wrong and criminal. Also, women support women. If you need to find a support group in your local area or even an online forum to just air out your experience and grievances. Don't take shit from anyone.