Sexual Harassment: How to Fight it Now

SexualHarassment copyHave You Been Sexually Harassed?

Any form of sexual attention that feels uncomfortable, unwarranted or makes you feel pressured to respond is harassment, particularly in a relationship of unequal power. It can be verbal or physical. The key is to recognize the signs and protect yourself and others from this abuse of power and trust.

Sexual harassment takes many forms; however, the most common criminal behaviors include assault, battery and rape. In addition, sex between an adult and a minor (under the age of 18) is always illegal even when it’s consensual. More subtle examples of harassment include someone who:

  1. Makes explicit sexual comments to you over time
  2. Propositions you for sex
  3. Forcibly hugs, grabs, or kisses you
  4. Touches you inappropriately during a massage, etc.
  5. Asks repeatedly for a date despite your lack of interest

Ignoring sexual harassment will not end it so it’s important to pay attention to bodily sensations that cause fear, discomfort or confusion. Here are some suggestions about what to do.

Tell your harasser in no uncertain terms that you find the behavior offensive, while keeping your voice firm and looking the person in the eye. If this is too uncomfortable, you can rehearse your response with a friend or write a polite but factual letter that explains how you feel about the event and what you want to happen next (keep a copy of the letter for yourself). It helps to use a journal to list the time, date and place of each event, any witnesses, and specific words and actions along with how they made you feel. Report the misconduct to a school or union official and consider filing a formal complaint if the behavior continues.

To deal with the emotional repercussions of sexual harassment, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline to locate a local crisis center for free support (800-656-HOPE). You can also use anonymous instant messaging for immediate assistance ( While it is common to detach yourself emotionally, physically and intellectually from the event, a number of potential symptoms may reappear later, including flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, nightmares and intense fear in similar situations. Please get help. You are not alone!

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