Things to Remember When Dealing with Sexual Harassment

1. Trust your instincts:

When a situation feels incredibly uncomfortable, it is a sign that something is wrong. Ignoring the situation is not going to change anything, but rather make it possible for things to escalate.

 2. You are not alone:

If it is happening to you, it probably has happened or is still happening to someone else. Familiarize yourself with your school’s or company’s policies, so that you can follow the chain of command, if necessary.

3. Show strength through body language:

Do your best to stay calm and in control. Take deep breaths to inhibit the stress response. Sit or stand tall with your head up, shoulders back, and make eye contact. Use your facial expressions to make it clear that you do not approve of the behaviour. Smiling, turning/ looking away, crossing your arms or legs, or sitting hunched makes your body look small and can be interpreted as submissive. Smiling may also send the wrong message and encourage further behaviour.

4. Use your voice:

Look for ways to deflect unwanted behaviour. Some teachers coach students on personal space as a part of business etiquette. Try using similar tactics. You can also disregard inappropriately personal questions, change the subject, or even state that it is inappropriate. Putting it in the context of cultural differences can sometimes help soften the impact, giving them a way to save face.

5. Remove yourself:

If the incident has gone too far, you are justified in leaving the situation. There is no excuse for inappropriate touch, exposure, or anything else that is a clear violation of your rights. Excuse yourself and seek help from your supervisor. We also recommend you speak with a union representative in case your company/school is not supportive of your decision.

6. Document everything:

Record all incidents in detail as soon as possible. Writing things down will help alleviate some of the stress and lessen the emotional toll over time. It also can be indispensable if the situation escalates and a complaint is to be filed. When documenting incidents, take your organization’s privacy policies into consideration. Information, such as a client’s full name, is often considered private, and therefore using this in records may be a violation of policy. Try working with this by using first names, and avoid breaching any policy the company has set forth. Record the date, lesson time, any witnesses, and all other pertinent information. Consider emailing it to yourself, so that the information is also time stamped. If appropriate, you can even subtly mention the offending behaviour in any daily records or lesson logs that are kept.

7. Communicate in writing:

Communicate your complaints as much as possible in writing. This provides a record of everything that was said, and makes the possibility of intimidation by supervisors less likely. It also gives you control, lessening the risk of becoming upset at work.

8. Protect yourself after hours: Be aware of your surroundings when going to and leaving work. If you think that someone is following you, consider changing trains, or alternating your route to lose him/ her. Keep to well-lit, populated streets as much as possible. Taking a picture of the person with your phone may scare them away, and back up your story. If the person continues to follow you, or tries to talk to you, contact someone to let them know what is happening and remember that the emergency line is 110. Avoid having him/her know where you live and go to a Police Box instead. Pepper spray or aerosol deodorant can also be used in self-defence if you are attacked.


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