Sexual harassment refers to unwanted sexual behaviour or advances, sexual favour requests and other physical or verbal manners of sexual nature. Thus, sexual harassment does not always involve physical touch, but may also include a put-down on someone’s gender and flirting when it was initially rejected. The most common victims of sexual harassment are women, but men are also sometimes harassed sexually. It typically interferes with the victim’s school or work life.
Sexual harassment is actually quite common in the society with 87% of women complaining that they have been harassed sexually at least once. Of the 43% of all Canadian women that have experienced harassment in work, only 8% report the harassment, most opting not to report for many reasons. Eight out of ten female students were also reported of having been sexually harassed at school. (Source: Sexual Assault Center of Hamilton Ontario, Canada). To learn how to properly approach and give support to victims of sexual assault, enrol in First Aid Training and CPR courses to help prepare for future incidences.
Categories of Sexual Harassment
Illegal sexual harassment can be categorized into any of the four categories. These include:
- Quid pro quo
- Doing something in return for something else
- Ex. Withholding privilege in exchange for sexual interaction
- Hostile environment
- Unwelcome sexual actions in the working or school environment, with no necessary direct threats
- Ex. Making inappropriate jokes or displaying provocative posters where they should not be placed
- Sexual favouritism
- Preference of a person with authority to his/ her employees or students that agree to sexual demands whereas those who do not consent are denied of benefits
- Aggressive acts
- Unwanted concrete physical behaviour against a victim
Effects of Sexual Harassment
Victims of chronic sexual harassment can have the same psychological effects as victims of rape and other types of sexual assault. It is important to report sexual harassment immediately to avoid further trauma to the victim.
- Increased absence from school or work
- Neck pain
- Increased blood pressure
- Eating disorders
- Loss of self-esteem and confidence
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Sleeping problems
Treatment for Sexual Harassment
Although sexual harassment may not be as grave as sexual abuse, this does not mean that it should be completely ignored. Left unopposed, this may progress to sexual assault. At first signs of sexual harassment, it must be reported immediately to a superior to avoid any further sexual advances. The following are recommended in cases of sexual harassment:
- Report any inappropriate behaviour done by a person to more superior person. If a friend is a victim, encourage him/ her to speak out.
- Assure the victim that this was not his/ her fault. Ongoing emotional support can be very helpful for sexually harassed victims.
- Talking to a therapist may help whatever the person is going through and be very beneficial for victims of sexual harassment.