Sexual Harassment Doesn’t Have To Be Extreme
For some in Southwest Florida, especially men who’ve never experienced it personally, sexual harassment is viewed as an extreme, even criminal act. In other words, sexual harassment only “counts” in their eyes if a woman is forcibly cornered, fights and screams, and is raped. To some, anything less than that is not sexual harassment and is considered legal.
However, the reality is sexual harassment does not start at a sexual assault attempt; that is the most dramatic end of the spectrum. That is why this type of harassment has gone underreported for decades. 81% of working women reporting verbal sexual harassment, 44% reporting physical contact, and, sadly, less than 1/3 of women reporting harassment within the workplace itself to have it addressed. Of course, men also experience sexual harassment, but in this case, it’s a much smaller demographic of only 13%.
What Is Sexual Harassment?
If outright sexual assault is considered the extreme end of sexual harassment, these are the activities that are legally considered to fall within the spectrum.
If romantic interest is expressed and returned, that’s one thing. But if that interest is refused, the refusal ignored, and advances repeat despite refusal, that’s considered sexual harassment.
Threats In Exchange For Sexual Favors
In some cases, threats, such as dismissal or demotion, will be made unless sexual favors are granted in secrecy.
Rewards In Exchange For Sexual Favors
Other instances may try to entice people into sexual activity by promising rewards such as promotions, raises, or other means of advancement.
Innuendo/Sexual Related Conversation
Repeatedly trying to engage another in sexual topics, especially if the topics err toward requesting sexual favors, are considered harassment.
Non-consensual Physical Contact
Two people greeting each other by shaking hands is considered consensual physical contact. The same is valid for mutual hugs. However, touching without consent, such as placing hands on shoulders, touching or squeezing buttocks, or even placing hands on breasts without permission, are all examples of non-consensual contact.
Gift Giving With Expectations
Doing something nice for a coworker is not illegal. However, giving gifts with the expectation that the gift will be repaid through sexual activity is sexual harassment.
Arranging Non-Work Related Meetings
Requiring someone to meet for strictly social/sexual purposes with no bearing on their work duties is considered sexual harassment.
Firing anyone that refuses sexual advancements as an example to other employees that the same will happen to them unless they comply is sexual harassment.
If you have been the victim of sexual harassment at your workplace, you are a victim, not an instigator, despite what others may claim to shift blame. Sexual harassment is illegal, and both the people responsible. The company itself may be liable in court if it can be proven that they allowed it to happen or, worse yet, attempted to hide the act and protect the instigators, allowing the harassment to continue. If you live in Southwest Florida and are a sexual harassment victim, talk to a sexual harassment attorney to get the compensation you deserve.