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 Types of Sexual Harassment

  1. Gender Harassment: Generalized sexist statements and behavior that convey insulting or degrading attitudes about women. Examples include insulting remarks, offensive graffiti, obscene jokes or humor about sex or women in general.
  2. Seductive Behavior: Unwanted, inappropriate and offensive sexual advances. Examples include repeated unwanted sexual invitations, insistent requests for dinner, drinks or dates, persistent letters, phone calls and other invitations.
  3. Sexual Bribery: Solicitation of sexual activity or other sex-linked behavior by promise of reward; the proposition may be either overt or subtle.
  4. Sexual Coercion: Coercion of sexual activity or other sex-linked behavior by threat of punishment; examples include negative performance evaluations, withholding of promotions, threat of termination.
  5. Sexual Imposition: Gross sexual imposition (such as forceful touching, feeling, grabbing) or sexual assault.

Of these five types of behavior, gender harassment is by far the most common, followed by seductive behavior. The "classic" forms of sexual harassment (bribery and coercion) are in fact relatively uncommon, while other forms of sexual imposition happen more frequently than most people think. Recent court decisions have also found that certain types of offensive visual displays in the workplace, such as pornography, can be considered sexual harassment.

 

The defining characteristic of sexual harassment is that it is unwanted. It's important to clearly let an offender know that certain actions are unwelcome.


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Effects of Sexual Harassment

 

Being sexually harassed can devastate your psychological health, physical well-being and vocational development. Women who have been harassed often change their jobs, career goals, job assignments, educational programs or academic majors. In addition, women have reported psychological and physical reaction to being harassed that are similar to reactions to other forms of stress. They include:

 

Psychological Reactions

 

  • Depression, anxiety, shock, denial
  • Anger, fear, frustration, irritability
  • Insecurity, embarrassment, feelings of betrayal Confusion, feelings of being powerless Shame, self-consciousness, low self-esteem
  • Guilt, self-blame, isolation
  • Physiological Reactions 
  • Headaches
  • Lethargy
  • Gastrointestinal distress
  • Dermatological reactions
  • Weight fluctuations
  • Sleep Disturbances, nightmares
  • Phobias, panic reactions
  • Sexual problems

 

Career-Related Effects

 

  • Decreased job satisfaction
  • Unfavorable performance evaluations
  • Loss of job or promotion
  • Drop in academic or work performance due to stress
  • Absenteeism
  • Withdrawal from work or school
  • Change in career goals


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What Can You Do If You Are Harassed?

 

There is no one way to respond to harassment. Every situation is different and only you can evaluate the problem and decide on the best response.

Friends, affirmative action officers, human resource professionals and women's groups can offer information, advice and support, but only you can decide what is right for you. The only thing you can be absolutely certain of is that ignoring the situation will not cause it to go away. Above all, DO NOT BLAME YOURSELF FOR THE HARASSMENT. It is not your fault. Place the blame where it belongs--on the harasser. Self-blame can cause depression and will not help you or the situation.

 

Many Women Have Found These Strategies Effective:

 

  • Say NO to the harasser! Be direct.
  • Write a letter to the harasser. Describe the incident and how it made you feel. State that you would like the harassment to stop. Send the letter by certified mail. Keep a copy.
  • Keep a record of what happened and when. Include dates, times, places, names of persons involved and witnesses, and who said what to whom.
  • Tell someone; don't keep it to yourself. By being quiet about the harassment, you don't help stop it. Chances are extremely good that you aren't the only victim of your harasser. Speaking up can be helpful in finding support and in protecting others from being victims.
  • Finding out who is responsible for dealing with harassment on your organization and whether you can talk in confidence to that person. Almost all organizations have sexual harassment policies, procedures and individuals or counselors who administer them.
  • Find out what the procedure is at your workplace or school; it is the organization's responsibility to provide you with advice, help and support, but such meetings at the workplace can provide an important record if legal action is ever advisable.
  • If you are a union member, speak to your union representative. Unions are generally very committed to eliminating sexual harassment in the workplace.
  • If you are experiencing severe psychological distress, you may want to consult a psychologist or other mental health professional who understands the problems caused by sexual harassment.
    Reprinted from the Journal of the American Psychological Association