Sexual Harassment and Assault:
Your Compass AFA MEC and EAP committee has put together a guide to sexual harassment and assault. Please read and be informed of your rights. If you are a victim, we would like to offer help and urge you to follow the suggestions provided.
What is sexual harassment?
Although sexual harassment and assault are related, they are not the same. Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive or insulting remarks about a person’s gender. Harassing may include offensive jokes, slurs, name calling, physical assaults or threats, intimidation, ridicule, insults, offensive pictures and more. The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a passenger.
There are two types of sexual harassment:
- Quid Pro Quo sexual harassment refers to conditions or threats placed on a person’s employment in exchange for sexual favors.
- Hostile Environment sexual harassment occurs when a person is subjected to offensive, unwanted, and unsolicited comments or behavior of a sexual nature that interferes with that person’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment.
Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment. But should you let “harmless” crude remarks and sexual innuendos go? No! If something is making you feel uncomfortable you should stop it right then and there before it escalates. Take the steps listed below to help protect yourself if you have been or are being sexually harassed at work.
What is sexual assault?
Sexual Assault is a crime. Sexual assault is defined as intentional sexual contact, characterized by use of force, threats, intimidation or abuse of authority, or when the victim does not or cannot consent. It is important to understand that if anyone touches you sexually at work, even over your clothing, it is not just sexual harassment – it is also sexual assault and should be taken seriously.
Steps to take if you have been sexually harassed at work:
Confront The Harasser
Confront the person sexually harassing you. Look them in the eye and tell them what they did was inappropriate. Be specific and blunt – do not worry about being rude – you have a right to be. Don’t respond to texts or emails, but screenshot them in case you need proof in the future.
Tell them To Stop!
The first time someone does something you object to tell them “stop!” Say it loud enough for others to hear for extra emphasis. Never apologize or make excuses for the offender.
Document It Or Report It Immediately
Sexual harassment is wrong, illegal and deserves to be addressed. But if you feel in your best judgement you have handled things in steps one and two above at least document the date, time, place, what happened, your action, and the harasser’s response. If it ever happens to you again, or to someone else at work, you will have a history to refer to. Even if the policy says to call or meet with someone, always put your complaint in writing and follow up in person. If you’re too nervous to make a report yourself, bring your work bestie or call for an AFA rep to be there with you for moral support. Ask if other coworkers are dealing with it, then report it together. Many employees quit as soon as the first incident of sexual harassment occurs. They’re too embarrassed or scared to go back. That’s perfectly understandable, but if you quit, you might be giving up your right to legal sexual harassment claims. The Supreme Court says that, if your employer has a published sexual harassment policy, you must report the harassment under that policy and give the employer the opportunity to fix the situation. If you don’t, you’ll probably lose your sexual harassment lawsuit if filed.
Report It Immediately If Touching Is Involved
Never let sexual touches or demands for sex go unreported. Touching in a sexual manner, whether directly or through clothing, is sexual assault. Document the incident and immediately report it to your Compass AFA EAP representative.
Call the Police
If you have been sexually assaulted, you have the right to call the police and report it as a crime. Victims are strongly encouraged to report these crimes, no matter how long after an assault occurred. Never let guilt or a desire to protect your attacker keep you from asserting your rights. You have done nothing wrong and someone who gets away with one instance may continue the harassment which could escalate into a more violent crime, like rape. If you have been a victim of rape, first get to a safe place. Call 911. Even if you are not injured, you still need medical assistance to protect your health. To protect evidence, it is important that you do not shower, brush your teeth, put on make-up, eat, drink, or change your clothes until advised to do so. If you feel uncomfortable reporting the crime, consider calling a confidential counseling resource available to you like your Compass AFA EAP representative or refer to the list of resources below. Here you may discuss your concerns and questions regarding the assault and the reporting process.
Hire A Lawyer If You Have Been Harmed
If you report sexual harassment and as a result, lose your job or are disciplined, you may wish to contact a civil rights attorney. Or, if you report the incident to management and they do not take appropriate steps to investigate and stop harassment at work – call an attorney. Your rights to work in an environment free from sexual harassment is protected by federal laws. A good civil rights attorney can advise you if you have a case and what legal steps to take to sue your harasser or employer in civil court. If you are physically injured by an attacker, you should call the police immediately, and then contact an attorney as soon as possible to document evidence you may need later to prove your case.
Get Help – Find Support
You are not alone! If you have been traumatized, consider joining a support group or get professional counseling. See below for a list of free and confidential support. It helps some victims feel empowered again if they become proactive in an organization that seeks to end discrimination. Your Compass AFA EAP committee is always looking for volunteers to get involved and help others like you!
AFA COMPASS EAP COMMITTEE
- National Center for Victims of Crime www.victimsofcrime.org 855.4.VICTIM
- California Coalition Against Sexual Assault www.calcasa.org
- Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault www.mncasa.org
- Rape Help Minnesota www.rapehelpmn.org
- Washington Coalition Against Sexual Assault www.wcsap.org
- Rainn Petition www.rainn.org 800.656.HOPE