Workplace harassment is a big deal. In the United States alone, it is estimated that 1 in 4 women have been sexually harassed or assaulted at work. It’s an even bigger problem when you consider that many victims don’t speak up because they fear for their livelihoods.
Sexual harassment can take on many forms, including unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. The behavior doesn’t necessarily have to be directly tied to your employment status – anyone who feels that he or she has been the victim of workplace sexual harassment should speak up about it. Even if you are not an employee at the company where the incident occurred, there are still ways you can help someone who has suffered through this situation. Here are six ways you can help an employee who has been sexually harassed.
Believe the Credible Source
One of the most important things you can do is believe the credible source (the person who was harassed) if they come to you with the truth about their experience. You might not think that what happened should be considered workplace sexual harassment, but it doesn’t hurt to listen and support your loved one even if it ends up being something small – especially because they are feeling embarrassed or afraid about speaking out about it. Just because there may not have been serious misconduct does not make it less worthy of notice or concern.
Also, note that any form of harassment can happen in different fields of work, not just in the office setting. Hospitals and clinics are not free of harassment incidents either. What makes this work setting worth mentioning is that the staff deal with patients and patient information on a regular basis. The effects of harassment can have dire consequences in this line of work. As a preventive measure, having a HIPAA training certification for all hospital staff creates a safeguard that can deter harassment. This is an effective preventive measure that will keep everyone in line and in their appropriate behavior because HIPAA violations lead to hefty fines and heavy reputation damage to the organization.
Let Them Know It’s Not Their Fault
At work, victims of sexual harassment are often made to feel like it was their fault. They may have been led on, or maybe they didn’t respond the way the perpetrator wanted them to. This is not only untrue, but it’s also damaging to the victim’s psyche. Be quick to identify signs of your workmate or friend being harassed. Let your friend or loved one know that it is not their fault and that no one deserves to be harassed in any way, shape, or form.
Stand Up for Them
If someone is sexually harassing your friend or loved one at work, they need someone to stand up for them. This doesn’t mean you need to get into a physical altercation with the perpetrator (although you certainly can if you feel safe doing so), but it does mean vocally supporting your friend and letting the harasser know that what they are doing is not okay. This may be enough to stop them in their tracks, or it might buy the victim time to figure out how to handle the situation more directly.
Learn What Harassment Is
While much sexual harassment falls under speech or even just speech alone, there are also other forms of sexual harassment, including touching, standing too close or lingering when talking, giving gifts with sexual connotations, and making remarks about a person’s appearance. The harasser doesn’t have to touch the victim for his behavior to fall into the category of sexual harassment – oftentimes, it’s non-physical acts that can leave lasting emotional scars. Let your friend or loved one know that you will support them no matter what form the harassment takes.
Encourage Them to Seek Help
Many victims of sexual harassment are reluctant to seek help, often because they feel like it will reflect poorly on them or even jeopardize their jobs. However, there are many resources available to them, including hotlines, counseling services, and you can even hire the best sexual harassment lawyer New York City that can help in filing a sexual harassment case. Let your friend or loved one know that you support and stand by them and offer to go with them to any meetings or appointments they might have. It can be incredibly helpful just to have someone there for moral support.
Don’t Pressure Them into Doing Anything They’re Uncomfortable With
If your friend or loved one is not ready to take any action after being sexually harassed at work, that’s perfectly okay. They need time to process what happened and figure out what’s best for them. You can let them know that you are there if they want to take action but pressuring them into doing so is only going to make the situation worse. And remember it’s also okay if they never do anything about their experience; there’s no timeline or rule book for recovering from harassment.
Sexual harassment and other forms of harassment in the workplace can be incredibly damaging, both mentally and emotionally. However, by following these six simple tips, you can help support your friend or loved one through this difficult time. Remember to always believe them, stand up for them, and let them know that they are not alone.
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