If you’ve had any connection with the outside world, you have probably noticed the increased attention being given to sexual harassment. Specifically, the hashtag “#metoo” has been bringing awareness to just how rampant sexual harassment really is.
But what truly defines sexual harassment? I think that is a question that our society is struggling with right now because over time, we have been desensitized to what harassment of this nature really looks like.
The following are 5 common myths about sexual harassment; data reported was gathered from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Debunking the Myths
Myth: It only occurs if someone is sexually assaulted.
FALSE. Sexual harassment is ANY UNWELCOME sexual advance (behavior), requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. This also includes offensive remarks about a persons sex.
Myth: It only happens to women, and is always committed by a man.
FALSE. According to a study compiled by the U.S. EEOC in 2011, as many as 1 in 4 woman and 1 in 10 men have been sexually harassed. Sexual harassment does not just occur between a man and a woman; it can occur between a woman and woman or man and man as well.
Myth: Harassment is always motivated by a desire for sex.
FALSE. Although this might sometimes be the case, sexual harassment is often motivated by dominance, power and/or bullying.
Myth: The behavior must be repeated for it to be considered sexual harassment.
FALSE. All it takes is a single unwelcome behavior to be considered sexual harassment.
Myth: If I ignore it, it will go away.
FALSE. Unfortunately, the exact opposite is true. Ignoring harassment can make the problem get worse (this is not the victims fault!) because the perpetrator is not receiving the message that their actions are wrong, unwelcome or inappropriate.
I think I’ve experience sexual harassment…what do I do?
TELL SOMEONE! Do not wonder alone if your experience counts, especially if it is a repeated behavior. YOU DESERVE TO BE HEARD! If anything, talk it out with a close friend or family member, then decide if you need to take more direct action (like talking to a teacher, boss, or superior). Sometimes, all it takes is a simple conversation of “this happened and I felt very disrespected, please don’t do it again” to bring awareness to harassment, but sometimes it takes the action of our superiors to get justice. In either case, YOU WILL NEED SUPPORT.
As heartbreaking as it is to hear the stories of victims of sexual harassment, I think it’s also beautiful to see people coming together, in community, to support one another. What this does is it takes away that fear that no one will truly understand what you’re going through (or have gone through); it empowers others to tell their own stories and to advocate for themselves and those around them.
Yes, there will still be people who try to minimize these experiences…but as sexual harassment is given more and more attention, those voices begin to get lost amongst the shared experiences and encouragement we begin receiving from each other.
If you have personally experienced or witnessed sexual harassment and would like to talk with someone, please contact us at Amy Wine Counseling Center. You can call us at 832-421-8714 or email us to make an appointment.