Sexual Harassment: Why Should You Put Up With It?

Not a day passes by without us reading about violence and atrocities against women. They’re groped, molested, raped, killed and even burnt with acid by sexual predators, even in public places. The world isn’t a safe place for women anymore. And the worst part is that they are forced to live in constant fear, irrespective where they are roads, offices, trains, buses, malls, colleges and unfortunately, even their own homes. Most of these incidents don’t come out in the open simply because of the fear of being judged. And at times it’s the family itself who stop from speaking up because it’s “shameful” for them.

But why should one remain silent fearing humiliation? Why shouldn’t she react even if someone forced himself on her? Why should she suffer the agony and pain all by herself?

Sex offences are heinous crimes that should never be hidden or drowned in silence. It’s violation of one’s body and mind - a sin that can’t be forgiven. No, there’s nothing ‘shameful’ in talking to the world about it – infact it’s the perpetrator who should be shamed publically and implicated. Sexual assault/ harassment can happen to any woman. The first step to fighting this evil is speaking up, bravely. Only then can we bring sexual offenders, the worst lot among criminals, to justice.

What exactly is sexual misconduct?

Sexual misconduct is any form of behaviour, communication or act (direct or indirect) of sexual nature, which is non-consensual and committed by force, coercion, intimidation and manipulation. Forms of sexual misconduct include:

Sexual assault

Stalking

Sexual harassment

Sexual assault is any kind of forced or non-consensual sexual act like touching, kissing, some form of oral sex or penetrative sex (rape) can be termed as sexual assault.

Stalking is a creepy behavioural pattern that can be frightening, intimidating and out right dangerous. It’s when someone repeatedly and obsessively tries to follow, contact, message or send you gifts, irrespective of your response. They even take your silence or anger as a positive response and do weird things like keeping close track of your life and stealing your stuff. Stalkers can turn to be criminals who are capable of committing sexual crimes.

One of the biggest challenges women face these days, sexual harassment includes a wide range of behaviour and behavioural pattern, which aims at sexualisation of a professional relationship. It can include anything ranging from physical/ sexual advances and questioning to inappropriate remarks and jokes. Such behaviour can intimidating, repulsive, scary and depressing; and creates an extremely uncomfortable and hostile work environment. Most of the time, sexual harassment go unreported as it is committed by senior officials and the woman is scared of losing of her job and reputation.

Crimes can also be committed by people who are closely related to the victim, including family members, spouse and friends. This can include physical, sexual, verbal or emotional abuse and vary in frequency and severity.

What can you do about this?

You can prevent and resist sexual misconduct in many ways. And first step is being brave.

Speak up

Don’t keep quiet, don’t keep it to yourself, don’t be afraid. Let the world know how the other person is and what he’s capable of doing. Speak up and stand firm, support will come to you in no time. And yes, don’t let anything break you; you are your biggest strength and inspiration.

Trust your instincts

If you feel uncomfortable with someone or feel a bad vibe, walk away.

Learn to say NO

Most of the time, it’s the inability to say a firm “NO” that leads to further problems. The silence is taken as a “yes” by the stalker/ perpetrator. Be brave and say NO - whoever it may be.

Get support

Build a strong network of friends who will support you if there’s a problem. This will also ensure that you’re not alone.

Phone to the rescue

Always keep your phone with you and make sure there’s an emergency dial facility on it. There are also apps that let you inform the police about a possible safety threat, especially if you are alone and stranded.

If you are travelling by a cab on your own, especially long distance, make sure you communicate the vehicle number and driver details to a close friend over the phone in such a way the driver can hear.

Avoid isolation

It’s good to be careful, so avoid dark roads, empty buses/ trains, and isolated areas when you are alone. Help should always be near by.

Don’t get drunk unless you’re in a safe place

It’s good to have fun, but make sure you’re in a safe place – either your or a trusted friend’s home.

Respond if there’s a situation

If you see someone in distress, intervene and support. Do not shy away or ignore, it could have been you who was the victim. Call the police , they’ll make sure that you’re safe.

Dealing with sexual harassment at office:

Confront: speak up and speak to the person. Tell him in no uncertain terms that the issue will be taken up and he can stay away if he cares about his own reputation.

Inform your senior: make sure you inform about the issue to a higher official, so that he/ she is also in the loop.

Lodge a formal complaint with the HR: Give a written complaint, which is document proof of your problem. It’s your company’s responsibility to make sure that you’re safe and secure at office.

Inform the senior management: Write a letter to the senior management, asking for appropriate actions.

File a law suit if nothing else works or you’re being threatened.

Important Numbers:

In case of an emergency, call:

Pink Patrol: dial 1515

Vanitha Helpline: dial 1091

Crime stopper: dial 1090

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