"I didn't say anything because I didn't know if what I'd gone through is sexual harassment/assault or not" This is a phrase that is repeated by most girls who've experienced sexual harassment and stayed silent. This means that we, as women, still need to be open and understand sexual harassment more clearly and fearlessly, because unfortunately until this day, there still seems to remain some blurred lines that lead many women to doubt what they've been through and hold back from calling him out or speaking up about they're experience. So it is important for us to start this conversation by first talking about what is sexual harassment? And what to do if you're sexually harassed of assaulted?
What is sexual harassment?
This is a question that unfortunately so many men and women don't know how to answer. To no one's surprise, yes men are also subjected to harassment. Even if they are not victims, there is a large number of men, who not do not in any way support this crime and behavior towards women. They also condemn the clarifying the concept so we can all see change and hope to keep ourselves and loved one safe. So the next few lines are for everyone, you, your daughter, your sister, your friend, your mother, your husband, your son, your brother...
Simply put, sexual harassment is any sexual act that is not welcome or accepted by the person on the receiving end, whether it is verbal or physical. This applies not only to face to face interactions, but also any ones via phones or online and on social media. This means that as long as the other person said or acted inappropriately or in a certain way that was against your desire and what you agreed to or contested to, this is sexual harassment. It could also keep escalating and increasing gradually up to the point of sexual assault, blackmail, threats and rape.
How do I know that I have been sexually harassed?
Although the concept might seem clear and simple, to this day we still cannot distinguish and classify what we are exposed to. We will try to explain in detail the different forms of sexual harassment…
Also, it is important to note that the other person in the following examples can refer to anyone, including your boyfriend, your fiancé, your friend, your boss or even a member of your family...anyone.
1. Pressure from another person to perform a sexual act that you do not want to do or are uncomfortable with.
2. Unsolicited messages, phone calls or videos.
3. Unwanted pressure to go on a date or meet up.
4. Asking inappropriate questions or making unwanted sexual jokes.
5. Daily catcalls or harassment in public.
6. Sexual comments, whether in real life or through social media.
7. Steering business discussions into sexually suggestive discussions.
8. Sexual comments about body shape, clothes, or facial features.
9. Unwanted touching of your hair, body, hand or face.
10. Sexual expressions, gestures, or suggestions.
11. Unjustifiably standing too closely.
12. The other party touches his body in a sexual way in front of you, or reveals his private parts.
13. Unwanted flirting.
14. Sexual looks (staring at parts of your body in an unwanted manner).
15. Encouraging acts of sexual harassment, even if it is not direct.
16. Blaming victims of sexual harassment is also a form in of itself.
17. Pressuring you to send private photos in undesirable poses.
These are the most common forms of sexual harassment that most of us are exposed to. Familiarize yourself with this list well so that you can be sure and avoid self doubt and pressures from other people who tell you otherwise.
What do I do if I'm exposed to sexually harassment?
We all think about how we should react when we are subjected to sexual harassment, especially since many of us struggle with processing the situation and so we freeze in the moment and don't know how to act.
Note: Even if it's hard for you to speak up in the moment. Try to not stay silent forever. The sooner you speak out, the better. The more and earlier you confront the situation, the better.
1. If you're able to, face the harasser with no shame or fear, and show him that you are not giving any consent. Try to say "No" clearly.
2. If the incident happened at your school, university or work place, file a formal complaint to the administration or the human resources department.
3. Whatever location the assault takes place, try to document everything. People who have been around you or witnesses to the act can be of great help. This will help you if you decide to report the it to the police. If you safely can, take a picture or record what's happening to have proof.
4. If the it was through texts or calls, save everything. This will definitely support your report.
5. Record calls if you are being blackmailed or threatened, this will also help you.
6. Talk to those around you about what happened, a member of your family, your friend, your boss or anyone you trust.
Things you shouldn't do if you're sexually assaulted or harassed:
1. Do not be shy about voicing or showing your rejection, this gives them an opportunity to go further.
2. Do not look for excuses or justifications for his actions. It must be clear that what he did was sexual harassment or sexual assault and is unacceptable.
3. Try not to repress what happened, hoping it will go away.
4. Do not give up on your right to report to your school, work or university. If they do not take the necessary actions, this does not mean you lost. You can still take legal action.
5. Do not be scared of the threats, you can use them to your advantage, like we talked about above.
6. If the threats become serious, try to stay in a safe place among your friends or family, until you take the necessary legal measures.
7. Try to shut out the accusations or blames being thrown at you. Remember you are the victim not the problem.
8. Don't stay silent. We know how hard it is, but things can only change or stop when we women start talking about it and confronting it.