Top 5 Covert Signs of Sexual Harassment

Top 5 Covert Signs of Sexual Harassment

Don’t let your colleagues or managers get away with unwelcome gestures or comments. Look out for these signs and stop sexual harassment in its tracks!

One of the gravest threats to a workplace is sexual harassment. Although commonly believed to be a situation only women go through, sexual harassment can be experienced by a person of any gender or sexual orientation. According to an analysis conducted by Gapjil 119, an organization that assists with workplace abuse, eight out of ten workplace harassment victims end up facing some form of retaliation from the aggressor, like getting turned down for a promotion or threatening their job. The fear of retaliation, particularly if the victim isn’t sure  they are being harassed, can end up drawing out the sexual harassment for a long time. 

Going through such a situation for prolonged periods can take a serious toll on the victim’s mental health, leading to depression, anxiety and panic attacks. It can also affect their physical health, causing stomach problems, headaches and even eating disorders. If you or someone you know is struggling to differentiate between what’s harassment and what’s a behavioral slight that can be ignored, here are some signs that can help you know for sure. 

They are making you physically uncomfortable 

This can include patting, hugging, grabbing, leering at your body and even blocking you from entering or leaving a room. 

Moreover, sexual gestures, such as blowing kisses, touching themselves while looking at the victim or performing hand motions (like the two-finger gesture where the aggressor makes a V shape with their fingers and sticks their tongue out from between them), are classified as sexual harassment. 

They share unprofessional information 

Another indication that you are being sexually harassed is if the aggressor is sharing pornographic videos, offensive photographs or unsolicited details. These details can include things such as the gory particulars of a breakup, fights with a spouse or details of their own sexual experiences, which can be considered as harassment. 

They are being verbally abusive 

Comments of sexual nature made about a person either directly to them or near them constitute sexual harassment. Think jokes, innuendos, comments about your gender and sexuality, calling people sweetie or honey—all of these would fall under the category of verbal sexual harassment. 

They are using quid pro quo as an excuse

The term “quid pro quo” means “something given or received in exchange for something else”. In the case of sexual harassment, it would refer to someone in a position of authority requesting sexual favors in return for work-related assistance. This assistance can be anything from giving the victim a promotion to letting them leave work early for something like a doctor’s appointment or picking up their kids from school in return for something like a date. The worst part about quid pro quo sexual harassment is that since it comes from someone in a managerial position, not granting them a favor can directly or indirectly affect your job security.

They are stalking you on social media 

Here again, the aggressor would share videos and images that you may not want to see. They may also contact you via social media at odd hours of the day with the pretext of work and then continue the conversation even after the work-related matter has been discussed. Aggressors may also use social media to learn the victim’s location, who they’re with and what they’re doing. In some cases, they might even show up at the victim’s location making the situation potentially dangerous. 

If you are confused about whether some of the less obvious signs, like gestures and sharing personal information, are innocent and friendly behavior or a sign of harassment, the only way to know for certain would be to gauge if their behavior is making you uncomfortable and the person involved knows that they are making you uncomfortable. 

How to deal with harassment?

Just like we mentioned in our article about gaslighting, to make sure that your aggressor gets punished for their actions, you need to document everything they say or do. This will help you build a strong case for yourself when you report the aggressor, be it to the company or to law enforcement authorities. Again, if it is one of the subtle categories of harassment that we discussed, such as sharing unprofessional information, it might be helpful to set clear boundaries with the aggressor and tell them outrightly that their behavior is making you uncomfortable. 

If they still continue to behave inappropriately, then you can report them to the human resources department at the office. Make sure to report incidents of sexual harassment in writing and add detailed timelines (using the documentation you previously collected) to help the investigation go smoothly. If your company doesn’t respond proactively to your complaint, then you can discuss the matter with a lawyer who will guide you on the next possible steps to take. 

Remember that when you stand up for yourself, you are also standing up for all those who might have become victims of this person’s behavior in the future. In doing so, you are making your workplace safer for everyone. 

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Header image courtesy of Envato.

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