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Sexual harassment: Put up and shut up. It's time to be heard, recognised and respected
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: JANET JOOSTEN ( CBT therapist, Existential therapist, Integrative counsellor
17th October, 20170 Comments
For decades women have silently put up with sexual harassment in the workplace. There was little protection or resource at the time. Those who had the courage to complain soon discovered that their experience of sexual harassment was dismissed as trivial, harmless and just a joke. Women were often told to quit their job if they couldn't handle advances from the harasser. It was a case of put up and shut up.
The turning point came in the mid-1970's as the Women's Liberation Movement began to challenge the system and culture as a whole.The greater awareness of sexual harassment suggested that this once tolerated behaviour, is now frequently exposed, recognising sexual harassment as a violation of women's right's.
However, despite a greater awareness, this issue has continued to evolve and still remains a problem today. Recent incidents in the film industry have highlighted its prevalence. Sexual harassment is widespread and not only happening in the film industry, but in all industries, social circles, schools, colleges and universities.
It happens to ordinary women all over the world regardless of race, creed, and culture. It happens to women who are trying to earn a decent wage to provide for them and their families, their cries of unwanted sexual behaviour dismissed or forgotten. It's time to be heard, recognised and respected.
Before I continue I would like to define what sexual harassment means.
Sexual harassment includes any unwanted sexual behaviour, including touching and making comments of a sexual nature, sending emails with a sexual content, displaying photos or drawings of a sexual nature, joke of a sexual nature. Familiar? Read on:
The workplace culture.
Does your workplace have a culture in which there is a contstant telling of jokes without regard to how they offend others?
How do I know if I am being harassed at work?
- Has your manager promised to raise your wages or promotion in return for sexual favours?
- Has a manager, supervisor, colleague texted inappropriate photo's?
- Does a manager, supervisor, colleague make physical gestures that make you feel uncomfortabel, i.e hugging, putting their arm around you, massaging your shoulders?
- Has a manager, supervisor, colleague, made other unwelcome advances?
What to do if you're being sexually harassed by someone you work with.
- Collect evidence, keep a diary recording of all the times you've been harassed.
- Tell your manager and put it in writting. Do keep a copy of the letter or email.
- Talk to HR team or trade union. They will give you advice.
- If the above doesn't work and the harassment does not stop, you can raise a formal grievance (complaint). Al employers must have a grievance process (ask your manager or HR team).
Of course there are times when we feel too vulnerable to take action. Sexual harassment violates our dignity and it makes us feel intimidated, degraded and humilated. Its little wonder we fall silent and feel powerless with no one to share our pain with.
This is where speaking to an empathic person, someone who understands your experience and can offer a safe non-judgmemental space for your voice to be heard, recognised and respected.
Counseling can provide a safe space for you to talk and explore difficult feelings. The counselor is there to support you and respect your views.
About the author
Janet Joosten is a UKCP psychotherapist and CBT therapist. She has worked seventeen years for the rape and sexual assault centre and for Womens Aid. She has a special interest in womens issues, womens rights, disabled rights and older adults.
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