Effects of sexual workplace harassment for a victim in theory and practice.
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When you are being sexual harassed at work you’ll have a hard time trusting others because the offender of the sexual harassment doesn’t only robs a victim´s identity but also violates their trust. This makes it extra hard for them to speak about the workplace harassment they are suffering from, unfortunately it’s the only way out.
The lack of clarity about what will happen after a victim speaks-up about the sexual workplace harassment is one of the main reasons they keep their silence, besides the threats from the offender about their position in the company, the loss of their job and other physical and emotional violence.
When victims report sexual workplace harassment to the human recourses department, they must follow the company’s policy precisely. But how can we be sure that this policy provides them with the right protection. How are we insured that this policy is anchored within the company and its management, and what about the differences in interpretation of these rules. Are the counselors that well trained so victims can rely on them when they have everything and nothing to lose.
Will it be possible to be ensured that counselors aren’t judgmental when the offender is the superior or perhaps that person you would never expect the harassment from because his or her appearance looks as innocent as a just born lamb. And what about confidentially, do all counselors work with professional secrecy and are they aware of the fact that they don’t have to report cases of sexual workplace harassment to the management but only advice the victims on their possibilities. Cases of sexual workplace harassment are most of the time complicated and victims are often traumatized by the offender´s assaults. Besides knowing and understanding about what the right procedure is, counselors have to ensure the victim that the harassment isn’t their fault. I think we can conclude that the counselor’s responsibility and liability (legally and physically) in cases of sexual workplace harassment are much more comprehensive then we are aware of. A 3-day training will not cover all the aspects of sexual workplace harassment. In order to make a full use of counselors, they should be properly trained and educated to fully understand what the consequences are in every step of the complaint procedure.
In my case the counselor represented me as the victim of sexual workplace harassment and also the offender, my employer. My employer was the director of the company and he decided that there would be no mediation, no conversation and no investigation available for me. He even tried to forbid me to see the health officer. The counselor wasn’t aware of the fact that he could not represent us both; my employer and me, so in the end this damaged my case in court. Although a company policy about workplace harassment was present in the office, there was nothing mentioned about where and how to report this. After some research on the internet I understood that the counselor was my only option and after our conversation on how my employer assaulted me, the counselor decided to confront my employer with the complaint. Like described in my book ‘Spitting on Hans’ tosti’ my employer Hans admitted at first but only two days later he retracted his confession.
This shows the importance about combining theory and practice in workshops and presentations. All involved parties of sexual workplace harassment should be fully aware of the effect of their actions, this will require professional confidentially, proper competence qualification, continuous education and creating awareness about what sexual workplace harassment really is. Because this doesn’t stop with the victim it continues throughout the organization. Counselors must be able to identify themselves in the experience of the victim, bystander or the offender and for that you need to be confidant.
When I was asked to be a guest speaker at a workshop for counselors about serial bullying, it surprised me that they weren’t aware of the fact that they don’t have to report cases of (sexual) workplace harassment to the management. And that they weren’t aware of the content of their company policy or on how employees, managers and other superiors should be trained on this subject. In this workshop I have shared my personal experiences including all the humiliating details about the sexual harassment and how it (still) affects me in my daily life by not feeling that self ensured anymore. The workshop received a positive evaluation and we are convinced that we created more awareness about offenders of workplace harassment, despite our worries about missing out on important things like lack of legal aspects.
Just one day after the workshop one of the counselors sent us an email about my blouse and that I shouldn’t wear it while speaking about sexual workplace harassment. The counselor claimed that it showed my nipples. We were perplexed about this comment because my blouse was highly sealed and I was wearing a solid short woven-bra underneath it.
These kinds of reactions from counselors aren’t very reassuring for the confidence employees should have in the keepers of a safe and healthy work environment. So tell me, how trustworthy are our counselors?
Because of the extreme humiliation, shame and fear most experiences with (sexual) workplace harassment are very difficult to share with HR managers, counsellors, superiors, colleagues, family or friends. And also because of this degrading intimidations it’s very hard to speak up about this unwelcome and unlawful harassment. These are the reasons why less than 1% of the complaints on this matter are false. But sadly also the reasons why many offenders escape their punishment and gain more power and make more victims.
Fragment from Spitting on Hans’ tosti
When ‘Sir’ enters the office, he walks straight up to my desk and stands about a fourth of an inch beside me while I sit down on my chair that makes him feel grand. ‘Sir’ gazes at my mouth, and then he looks at his fly and tries to establish eye contact. ‘Sir’ doesn’t care how hurtful he is being or how uncomfortable I feel. His actions make me sick. ‘Sir’ is standing so close to me that I can feel his body heat. I freeze. The whole spectacle last a minute tops, but for me it feels like hours have passed. I sit there, frozen. I can’t move and I dare not the breath. It seems I can no longer move. It satisfies ‘Sir’ to make me feel this small and thus himself so mighty.
‘Sir’ sends me a message from the restroom that he doesn’t like anal sex but he’s willing to make an exception for me. He asks for my sexual preferences and if I have any experience in anal sex… he would gladly stretch me to get me ready for it. Without ‘Sir’ actually touching me, I feel raped by his words.
So ‘Sir’ wants to tongue-tie me, does
he? All these messages from ‘Sir’ don’t mean anything, do they? Like his photo
from the beach and de message saying how much he longs for me. The witnesses
are all lying, aren’t they? The money, the settlement for my secrecy, equals a
blatant admission of guilt to me.
It’s very important that victims are told that they are not alone, that they are believed and that we share the importance to speak-up to decoupling the offenders from their power to effect other people and workplaces. Besides sharing what is happing during the harassment, the activities of the harasser and the process of the complaint procedure are equally important. This can empower other persons who are in the same position to break with the vicious circle of (sexual) workplace harassment
Fragment from Spitting on Hans’ tosti
“I still regret to this day that I did not speak up or took any action. During my employment in the office, not a single employee has been able to say goodbye to the company, the colleagues and management in a normal and professional manner. People have always been harassed, and in her case, the harassment was of a sexual nature. I’m convinced that I wasn’t the only one who noticed this”.
When bystanders react on workplace harassment by reporting the incidents to the management, in more than 42% of the cases the harassment will stop.
Next to believing, awareness and education are strong weapons against (sexual) workplace harassment. Ready for more experiences and the crucial tools on how to handle workplace harassment, contact Karin via www.aboutworkplaceharassment.com
“We have a dozen attorneys who provide this type of information”, she told me. But something goes wrong because ‘this type of information’ is hardly effective enough.
HR managers who think that attorneys providing them on a regular basis with information about sexual workplace harassment is enough to stop this growing epidemic, should reconsider. Sure the information that comes from attorneys about sexual workplace harassment cases is very important, but will not give you a comprehensive view on the effects of sexual workplace harassment. These attorneys most likely will share their knowledge on vicarious liability, your company policy and other legal issues concerning this subject. But what about empowering your employees to change the behaviour or educate the staff for handling a complaint of sexual harassment humanely. Because like my attorney mentioned after my lawsuit, when I was outraged about the fact that superiors are that falsely protected by law: “Karin, you’ve only seen a tip of the iceberg”. Personal persecutions for crimes like sexual workplace harassment seem to be impossible when offenders, helped by their employers, enjoy an unfairly escape. With this escape for the offender and the employer having to pay the fine, are we thus satisfied with this type of information provided by attorneys?
Employers and government agencies have besides a legal also a moral responsibility to provide a safe workplace for every employee. This principal concern of ethics seems to be an omission in the approach against workplace harassment. Prevention and protection based on information only serviced by attorneys on legal responsibilities fails short because it doesn’t show the bigger picture, which means that the one-sided information is insufficient. That what contributes the most is not always morally justified.
Therefore employers and authorities have to make sure they are advised and educated on their moral responsibilities as well. About Workplace Harassment believes in empowerment and awareness by sharing the comprehensive experience of (sexual) workplace harassment. How (sexual) workplace harassment starts, the process, reactions of colleagues, your private life, policies, complaint filing, etc. Based on this theory we share our knowledge about how to define, recognize and prevent (sexual) workplace harassment.
For a peak behind the real lived experience of sexual workplace harassment, contact www.aboutworkplaceharassment.com and we’ll show you how to change unwanted behaviour at the workplace. How to handle a complaints procedure humanely and of course we speak about which steps (legally) will or will not be effective.
“The thought that sexual harassment can’t appear in your company is a naïf and perhaps arrogant thought.”
Most of the time employees that have to deal with sexual workplace harassment don’t feel secure enough to share what is happing in their work environment. Despite the knowledge of the existence of a company policy that should protect them, or simple because of the fact that the behavior isn’t being recognized as sexual harassment, it’s difficult for victims and bystanders to step forward. This ‘silence’ however doesn’t tell you that your company is free from sexual harassment.
A good prevention starts with acceptance. So when we accept the possibility that sexual harassment can happen by superiors, among co-workers, clients, teachers etc. we can start an effective prevention policy that will be embraced by employers and employees. Not just because of the code of conduct but also because of the strong believes that your company will share through these rules of behavior that you have to stand for respect and believing. To make workplace harassment negotiable you actually do need to discuss this subject with your employees and ensure them that no colleague stands above this policy and that the consequences for breaking these rules are the same for every employee. Integrity, trust and believe are the keywords in cases like sexual workplace harassment, but employees need to see how employers put these words into action by providing good training for all employees (not only superiors), by being alert when employees call in sick or want to change their schedule in order to avoid a colleague. By showing that they are able to act against sexual workplace harassment by taking every complaint seriously. This means that not only victims but also the offenders are being protected against possible escalation that will create a hostile environment.
Virtually every day we receive emails from victims all over the world in which they share their experience with sexual harassment. The questionnaire that is live in Aruba shows a shocking result. It’s very sad and of much concern that these employees work in both small companies and multinationals that, please note, have a company non-discrimination and anti-harassment policy. Victims who are filing complaints but still aren’t being protected because the harasser is their superior. This is intended to make sure other victims and bystanders stay low, remaining too afraid to come forward. That’s why we must ensure that their voices are properly heard.
The qualities that make
change possible, concerning sexual workplace harassment, are reflected in the
quality of the employer-employee relationship. This starts with acknowledging
the possibility that this unacceptable and criminal behavior can happen in your
Ready for that good quality and successful employer-employee relationship, than please remove your blinkers and contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.