Despite what we’ve seen been seeing in the news for the past year, sexual harassment in the workplace is nothing new. Recently high profile honchos have been held accountable for their years, if not decades of harassing others. Unfortunately, it didn’t start with Harvey Weinstein nor will it end with his fall from grace. Sexual harassment comes from a dark place and coupled with a power dynamic it can leave one feeling helpless.
Having conversations about dealing with sexual harassment is one of those talks that’s timeless and seems to never go away, so here are some tips for handling your own experiences should you find that you’re feeling exploited and violated by your superiors or coworkers.
Know your rights.
Familiarizing yourself with what’s legal and what is not is critical for addressing any form of sexual harassment. Employment laws vary from state to state so be sure to know what applies in your state.
If you work at a company with a dedicated human resources department then connect with them to stay current with company policies and procedures for reporting incidences. If you don’t have access to an HR representative then be proactive and speak with a lawyer.
This is easier said than done and with fear of retribution, it’s easy to understand why people remain quiet about their experiences. However, as seen with recent scandals, incidences may not be isolated and by speaking up you may find others who had similar encounters.
Sexual harassment is enabled by a culture of gaslighting and blaming the victim, however what we’re witnessing now is the power that comes with speaking up. There’s strength in numbers and the only way you will know that you are not alone is by speaking up. You’ll find that what often happens is when you speak up, you’re give others permission to do the same.
Write down your experiences.
It’s important to write down incidences so that if you do report your experiences, then you have a paper trail of what’s happened, when, where, and with whom.
Having to recall details can be difficult but if you take notes of what happens immediately after it happens then you won’t have to worry about digging into a memory that you may have either forgotten or suppressed.
Plan ahead with an exit strategy.
Getting harassed in the workplace is not your fault however that doesn’t absolve you from very real consequences, especially if the one who is harassing you has clout and leverage to dismiss you. We can talk about how illegal it is to fire someone who’s been a victim of sexual harassment, however the reality is that if you do pursue a lawsuit, going to court takes time.
As a precaution, being prepared with an updated resume and keeping your eyes open for other job opportunities is a good way to make sure that you plan for all the potential “what ifs.”
Create a support system.
Harboring a secret where you’re left feeling vulnerable and exploited will take a toll on your mental, physical, and emotional well being. Creating a support system so that you’re not dealing with this alone goes a long way with helping to keep you from having a breakdown, assuming you haven’t had one already.
Reach out to your mentor, trusted peers, family members, and friends who can give you the space you need to cry and vent about your frustrations and fears. Now is also a great time to consider implementing self-care practices into your life.