I’ll start out with saying it: we live in a world where unwanted comments, bullying, touching, and other forms of sexual harassment plague men and women alike every day at work. And even the best of us experience it – Monica Lewinsky, for example, or Lisbeth Salander (even though she’s fictional!).

To briefly explain: sexual harassment can acquire various identities. Comments about what you’re wearing or how you look, jokes referencing your sexual orientation, touching, groping, and bullying all fit under the term’s umbrella. Anything that is sexual in nature, is targeted at a specific person, and is bothersome to that person, is sexual harassment.

The following are my six most effective ways of dealing with sexual harassment at work:

1 See a therapist

This is the number one most effective way to deal with sexual harassment. Plenty of therapies have been proven successful in easing the suffering people experience because of sexual assault and sexual harassment.

2 Talk to your harasser

In order to regain control over your body and mind in the workplace, put yourself in the power position with this simple rule. Initiate a conversation and state that if he or she bothers you again, you’re going to either file a formal report with human resources or just call the police, because he or she has crossed a line. Walk away knowing you’ve threatened your harasser’s livelihood and future – no one will hire someone who has been reported for sexual harassment.

3 Do NOT concede to any offers made by your harasser

No. It doesn’t matter how much you need a promotion or how little it affects you now that it’s been happening for so long. It also doesn’t matter if your harasser is your employer or your supervisor. It’s not about what they want, it’s about your well-being.

4 Play it smart

Take the Lisbeth Salander approach and grab your camera (your phone). Write down exactly what your harasser says, when he or she says it, and make note of your surroundings during the harassment. The more evidence you accrue, the better your case will hold up and the more people will believe you.

5 If they fire you, so what?

You do not want to be in a place where your colleagues or superiors constantly harangue you because you’re too vulnerable, too smart, or too patient. It shouldn’t be made into your problem.

6 Know you’re not alone

If you’re experiencing sexual harassment at work, chances are other people are too. Talking to your coworkers may provide you with more support and reassurance than you think possible. Take, for example, the David Letterman sexual harassment allegations. He had affairs with more than a few of his employees, one of whom wrote about her personal experience in an issue of Vanity Fair.

The goal of the above rules is simple: take back your control. More than two decades after her affair with US president Bill Clinton, Monica Lewinsky writes in Vanity Fair that she not only regrets her actions, but that she remained silent for years, only recently writing a compelling piece that appeared in the 13th May issue of the magazine detailing her experiences with humiliation after the affair. Recently turning 40, it is time for Lewinsky to look to the future. Owning it, reporting it, and regaining your space and privacy in the workplace are worth losing a job where you’re constantly made to feel inferior.

Arleigha Cook
Photo: Helmuts Guigo