Spotting and recognising sexual harassment
In some cases, it is immediately clear to victims that the behaviour is sexually transgressive. In other cases, it is more difficult to establish. Often sexual comments are dismissed as a joke, while the recipient may not find it funny at all. Or you may find it funny the first time, but not the subsequent times. Sexual harassment can be verbal or physical. We list some examples of sexually transgressive behaviour in the workplace:
- Inappropriate jokes or ambiguous remarks are made;
- Unwanted intimate questions are asked;
- A colleague or employer invites you on an intimate date;
- Unwanted physical contact is made, for example pinching the buttocks or kissing, but also an unwanted touch like an arm around your shoulder;
- People make unwanted advances outside working hours, for example on social media or whatsapp.
Because sexual harassment usually targets an individual person, it is difficult to recognise the problem as a colleague. Also, harassment often takes place out of sight of colleagues. For example, outside working hours when colleagues have already left. Or in places where the perpetrator has free rein. This makes it difficult for employers or colleagues to recognise sexual harassment. Sexual harassment in the workplace can be a one-off occurrence, or it can be a recurring problem. Both cases are unacceptable and sometimes punishable.