Sexual Harassment in the Workplace (#ThatsHarassment)

It’s Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, which has been observed every April since President Obama started his first term.

One category pertinent to the issue of sexual assault is an issue that’s currently making national headlines: sexual harassment in the workplace, which unfortunately too commonly progresses to assault. Wendy L. Patrick, PhD, Psychology Today:

As a career sex crimes prosecutor I have seen hundreds of cases where sexual assault followed a predictable course of escalation of behavior from harassment to assault.  Initiated within a culture of hostility and sexual innuendo, the misconduct often begins with leering, progresses to sexualized language and inappropriate touching, and can lead to sexual assault.

What is sexual harassment? According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC):

Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature in the workplace or learning environment…Sexual harassment does not always have to be specifically about sexual behavior or directed at a specific person. For example, negative comments about women as a group may be a form of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment interferes with your performance by threatening your job security or becoming an obstacle to effective work.

Actor/director David Schwimmer just announced the creation of six brief videos about sexual harassment, an awareness campaign called #ThatsHarassment. At least two of the presentations, based on real incidents, involve the workplace.

The first one seen below stars Schwimmer as the offending boss. As Dr. Patrick stated in a more recent post, “Sexual harassment is often an exploitation of power imbalance. Such harassment is not motivated by sexual interest, but by the desire to intimidate, humiliate, or degrade.”

The next one involves a new female employee being “indoctrinated” by a coworker:

Another post by Dr. Patrick on this topic (Psychology Today) points out some additional facts of importance. Click on the link for detailed descriptions of the ways perpetrators may operate, e.g., via tolerance testing and physical boundary probing:

Research demonstrates that employees who hold sexually permissive attitudes are at greater risk for becoming involved in sexual harassment, either as a perpetrator or a victim.[2] Research also demonstrates that men hold more sexually permissive attitudes than women.[3] With both men and women, sexually permissive attitudes may be gauged through tolerance testing and physical boundary probing…

Other ways in which sexual harassers capitalize upon victim receptivity to inappropriate behavior include shaming, power exploitation, and inappropriate methods of control.

Looking for help for yourself or someone else who’s been victimized? The Feminist Majority Foundation lists national resources.

For more info about #ThatsHarassment, look for it on Facebook or Twitter.

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