The #metoo movement empowered women everywhere to speak up about their experiences with sexual harassment, abuse, and assault. Sexual harassment has become a weed of the workplace landscape. And even though most companies have fairly harsh penalties and a stated low tolerance for harassment on the job, many acts still go unpunished.

There are often subtle signs that indicate when sexual harassment is happening, yet harmful encounters are still confused with innocent unintentional behavior. However, telling the difference might be difficult for some people. The standard of what is deemed sexual harassment can vary from person to person.

Here are a few things to keep in mind if you believe sexual harassment is happening in your workplace.

no always means no

If you’ve said “no” to certain behaviors but the same scenarios keep happening, then it’s fairly clear that the other person is dismissive of your rejections. When no stops meaning no, it’s time to take action. Whether it’s teasing, flirting, jokes in bad taste or physical contact that makes you feel uncomfortable, voicing that you are uncomfortable should always be enough. If the perpetrator(s) ignore your concerns, it’s time to escalate the situation. Document the incidents and talk to your supervisor, manager, or human resources representative immediately.

If you’ve have been injured as a result of the incident (physically assaulted, fired from your job, mentally stressed..etc.), you may want to get a free consultation, and seek legal assistance. If you believe that your job is in danger because you reported the abuse, be sure to share this with both your human resources department and/or your legal representative.

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things that make you uncomfortable

You may be conflicted about what behavior is seen viewed as actual sexual harassment. Every situation that makes you uncomfortable may not be harassment. But others should respect how their actions make you feel – not just what their intentions were.

Some people could be socially awkward or oblivious to the way they’re making you feel. For example, your colleague may be a little touchy-feely. Constantly patting you on the back or putting their arm around your shoulder. To them, this may be perfectly normal behavior, for you, it may be intrusive and uncomfortable. If you feel threatened or harassed, be okay with telling them how you feel. If the behavior persists, escalate the problem to the relevant people.

Here are some examples of situations that could be considered sexual harassment:

  • An unsolicited conversation about their sexual encounters or experiences. They can also be overbearing with details and descriptions of sexual acts. And may ask about your personal experiences as well.
  • Displaying content of a sexual nature to you. This could be anything from a pornographic magazine, risque cartoon, or website to a music video of a strong sexual nature.
  • Makes inappropriate comments of a sexual nature or implied sexual nature. It’s not your responsibility to decipher their intentions but try to understand if the comment is truly salacious. For example, “you look lovely today” is completely different from “that dress really shows off your assets”. However, keep in mind, that some people phrase comments just right to be able to dispute that actual harassment occurred. 
  • Insists on meeting up with at work or outside of work

The best way to tell if you’re in a situation that could be considered sexual harassment is to think how awkward or uncomfortable it makes you feel. Most sexual harassment guidelines are built on how you feel… not what the perpetrator meant by their actions.

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don’t be afraid to speak up

If you’ve been experiencing harassment for some time and are afraid to make a complaint, you’re you’re already a victim. You should never be afraid to make a complaint or say no to someone that you believe is harassing you. Whether you don’t know who to complain to or you fear for your job security, reluctance to speak up is usually a sign that you’re being harassed, or at least pressured.

Be your own advocate. Noone ever deserves to be put in a compromising situation, especially at work. Most major companies have procedures in place to keep you safe from retaliation. However, if you are truly fearful of backlash get legal assistance first. But whatever you do, don’t alone the offender(s) to keep violating you!