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Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Silence is Not Golden

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Sexual harassment in the workplace can take many forms and may begin looking like a simple flirtation which eventually turns into a full blown affair. Although sexual harassment may start as a seemingly innocent gesture, the effect of sexual harassment in the workplace on its victim can be debilitating and cause serious distress both professionally and personally. In addition, it often creates tension in the workplace that goes beyond the two individuals involved.

Who's Most Likely to Succumb to Sexual Harassment?

Many individuals who have found themselves victim to this type of behavior have often felt that they had no real choice in the situation. Especially if they felt concerned about losing their job and thought that if they did not respond favorably to these unsolicited advances, they would be faced with negative consequences that would affect the security or quality of their job.

Fear of losing a job or of being treated unjustly can cause some individuals to acquiesce and not respond and/or handle the situation in a way that would be in their own best interest. Since the victim may feel that there is no alternative but to passively accept the advances, they may continue the relationship out of fear of retaliation. Individuals who are not accustomed to speaking up for themselves are more prone to be taken advantage of since they've learned over the years to put the needs and requests of others over and above their own.

Young people can be more frequent targets in incidences of sexual harassment due to their immaturity and desire to please. Advances of this nature are often made toward individuals who lack self esteem and a supportive network on which to seek reinforcement and draw from for their emotional support. Since these victims may feel that they receive little support from others, they lack the ability to get their needs met through nurturing and supportive relationships.

What effects does sexual harassment have on its victims?

Many victims state that they have ended up falling in love with their harasser due to the loneliness and void they’ve always felt in their life. Sexual harassment has a demoralizing effect on women and has been known to cause cases of extreme stress, anxiety, and sleep disorders on its victims. What may start out as accepting a simple dinner date from your boss could end up being a very messy and painful situation for all those involved. Preying on those who are weak or those in a subordinate position is what makes sexual harassment so unfair and potentially destructive.

This story of an interns experience in the workplace reveals a common and sad story of what can happen as a result of a "romantic affair" that began in the workplace.

Defining Sexual Harassment.

The EEOC defines sexual harassment as "unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature...when...submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as the basis for employment decisions...or such conduct has the purpose or effect of...creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment."

Sexual harassment consists of two types of prohibited conduct:

1. quid pro quo—where submission to harassment is used as the basis for employment decisions; and 2. hostile environment—where harassment creates an offensive working environment.

What Can You Do If You Feel That You are Being Sexually Harassed?

As I was reading more about the subject of sexual harassment and college interns, I was happy to see that some colleges like Ithaca were doing something to make students aware of the issue while writers like Mary Vanderminden, education columnist and previous instructor at both public and private institutions, have written articles like "Dealing with sexual harassment during a college internship."

For more information on the subject, please read "Fighting Sexual Harrassment" listed on the website Legal Solutions for You, Your Family & Your Business.

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