Sexual harassment can take a variety of forms, but the end result is generally that a person’s work or school environment is intimidating, hostile or offensive because of this sexually-based harassment. At Blackburn Center, we are here to help victims of sexual harassment. Our free, confidential hotline is available 24/7: 724-836-1122 or 1-888-832-2272. You can call our hotline anytime for emotional support, to do safety planning, or to talk about other options.
Facts About Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment is bullying or coercion of a sexual nature, or the unwelcome or inappropriate promise of rewards in exchange for sexual favors. It can include unwanted sexual statements (such as dirty jokes), unwanted personal attention (such as telephone calls or pressure for dates), and unwanted physical or sexual advances (such as hugging, kissing or fondling). Importantly, sexual harassment isn’t limited by gender, or by sexuality; both men and women can experience sexual harassment.
Has it ever happened to you or to someone you know? How much do you know about sexual harassment?
Are these statements true or false?
1. Sexual harassment is a form of abuse that occurs in the workplace and school.
2. Men/boys can be victims of sexual harassment.
3. Sexual harassment can occur between people of the same sex.
4. Sexy clothes do not cause sexual harassment.
5. Ignoring sexual harassment or saying "NO" may not be enough to make the harasser stop.
6. Sexual harassment that occurs in a school is illegal. A school may be liable if it does not try to stop it.
7. Most victims of sexual harassment never report it to their employer or school officials.
8. What is teasing or flirting to one person may be sexual harassment to another.
9. Sexual harassment can be a criminal offense and/or a cause to sue.
All of the above statements are true!
(Adapted from Sexual Harassment and Teens by Susan Strauss)
Here are some things you can do if you are being sexually harassed:
• Ask the person to stop. Just asking is often enough. If this doesn't work, ask again. Tell the offender that you
will have to report the behavior if it continues.
• For teens, tell a trusted adult what is happening and ask them to help you. You may want to tell your parent,
another relative, the school counselor, your manager at work, your friend’s parent, or your teacher.
• Take notes. Keep track of what the person says and does, what you say and do. Include dates, times and
whether there were witnesses present.
• If the behavior continues, report it. Meanwhile, ask around to see whether anyone else is having similar
experiences. Encourage them to join you in confronting the harasser or reporting the behavior. Always keep in
mind that, depending on the person involved, confrontation may not be a safe option.
• If nothing is done to address the situation, you may need to consider legal action, though often simply
stating your intention to file suit or press criminal charges will be enough to get some action.
• Call Blackburn Center at 724-836-1122 or 1-888-832-2272 to explore your options.
Sexual Harassment Law
Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment can occur anywhere, but the law governing sexual harassment applies only to the workplace or school. Here's what the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) says about sexual harassment.
• The victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite
• In the workplace, the harasser can be the victim's supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee. At school, the harasser might be a teacher or other school staff member,
a fellow student, or a contractor who comes into the school but is not a school employee.
• The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
• Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge (firing) of the victim.
• The harasser's conduct must be unwelcome.
A supervisor who tells his secretary that she can keep her job (or get a raise) if she starts wearing shorter skirts to the office, the factory worker who pats a colleague on the butt, the fifteen year old who sends sexually explicit pictures to another student via text messaging - all might be considered guilty of sexual harassment.
The law recognizes two general types of sexual harassment. The first type, quid pro quo ("this for that") harassment, refers to situations in which the harasser has some kind of power over the victim. The victim (a student or employee), for example, may feel pressured to behave in a certain way or accept the harasser's behavior because of the harasser's ability to punish or reward.
The other type of sexual harassment is called "hostile environment" harassment and typically occurs among peers - coworkers or fellow students who may not have the power to control what happens to the victim on the job, but can certainly make the victim's work or school life miserable.
In either quid pro quo or hostile environment harassment, the employer or school administration is ultimately responsible for addressing the situation.
It is important to note that "I was just kidding around" is not an acceptable excuse. Whether any given language or behavior is considered offensive is in the eyes of the victim, not the harasser. Whether the behavior rises to the level of sexual harassment under the law, however, depends on the details of the circumstances. It is one thing to share a joke or remark within a group of friends or co-workers; it is another thing to direct that joke or remark at someone who doesn't welcome it or feels uncomfortable with it, or to start a rumor. What counts in determining sexual harassment is not how it was meant, but how it affected the victim. Sometimes the person doing the harassing will try to excuse his/her behavior by claiming to be "just flirting." But it's not flirting; it is harassment if the other person feels demeaned, inferior, unequal, and powerless. While sexual harassment does not always include physical acts, it is nevertheless considered to be a form of sexual assault and can take a serious emotional toll on the victim.
For more resources on sexual harassment, please click here.
More about Types of Abuse:
Children and Abuse