Thanks to the recent explosion of sexual misconduct allegations in Hollywood, sexual harassment is now an issue that dominates every conversation in the world. It had been a taboo subject for too long, mentioned only behind closed doors and in hushed whispers.
But Hollywood isn’t the only place where sexual harassment takes place. Sexual harassment is prevalent everywhere. It is not an issue found only within the entertainment industry, media industry, tech industry, or the government. It happens even in the most ordinary of workplaces.
This can be sometimes hard to believe or accept. But adapting a perception of “anywhere but here” is exactly what causes the deafening silence and cycle of sexual harassment to take place. People live through their days blindly and in ignorance of what is going on around them, whilst the victims withdraw to themselves in fear of facing skepticism.
However, now that conversation about sexual harassment has changed, a heightened awareness can finally be achieved. Accepting that it happens is one thing, but being able to identify when it is happening to you or to someone close is another. This means understanding the different forms sexual harassment can come in: quid pro quo and the creation of a hostile environment.
Quid pro quo harassment, when literally translated from Latin, means “this for that.” This takes place when an employee is promised work-related benefits in exchange for a sexual favor. This can be a promotion, a raise, a new office, and so on. Conversely, this can also occur when an employee’s position in the company is threatened as a result of refusing to engage in the desired sexual conduct.
The creation of a hostile environment, on the other hand, does not influence the employee’s position in the company. However, it can make the everyday interaction uncomfortable and the working environment threatening. This happens when a colleague or a supervisor makes sexual advances or comments that can affect an employee’s ability to do her job. Examples of hostile environment harassment are:
- Personal questions or stories of sexual nature
- Repeated touching of sexual nature, without consent
- E-mails and other means of communication with sexual material included
- Public display of pictures, drawings and icons with an explicit sexual theme or nature
In short, sexual harassment isn’t always clear-cut and discernible. It can range from something as obvious as repeated touching of a sexual nature to something that can be mistaken for innocent behavior, such as the telling of sexual stories.
As one can tell from the many stories of women bravely coming forth to the public, sexual harassment is a widespread issue that happens everywhere. But it doesn’t have to be. The best way to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace is by talking about it. No one should have to experience sexual harassment of any form and suffer on their own. Talk.