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What to Do When You've Been Sexually Harassed at Work

How to Deal with Workplace Sexual Harassment

The sheer quantity of #MeToo posts, news articles, and blogs have made it clear that nearly every woman has been subject to sexual harassment. The movement has even brought attention to the prolific amount of sexual harassment that non-binary individuals, and even a number of men, face regularly — it's clear that these issues aren't unique to any single demographic.

If you've ever been the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, and even if you aren't sure if you've been sexually harassed at work, this article will help you understand the things you need to do next to speak up, stay safe, and be emotionally healthy.

What is sexual harassment?

When it comes to sexual harassment, defining it is hard for many people. But, according to Fran Walfish (PsyD, Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist), your intuition is usually spot on. I have to agree with her assessment that, "Most people have a trustworthy inner voice that says, ‘Uh, oh!' when we're in an uncomfortable or highly charged troubled situation. Adrenaline kicks in, and we can be flooded with physical sensations of accelerated heart rate, body heat, flushed cheeks, sweating, and racing breathing. These are all signs of fight-or-flight when we are in danger."

If a co-worker's actions make you feel uncomfortable, there's a strong chance they're doing something wrong.

What to do after sexual harassment

After a co-worker crosses a line, the first thing you should do is record the incident. Write it down, record a voice memo on your phone (from a place where you won't be overheard), create a spreadsheet. The medium doesn't matter, because your goal is to create a history of the offender's behavior. This documentation will be useful if you decide to make a report with your employer or the police, or if you ultimately need to file a lawsuit.

If doing so feels safe, you should also tell your harasser that their behavior makes you feel uncomfortable and is unwelcome. Sometimes, the simple act of speaking up is enough to stop harassment.

If the harassment continues, seek out your employer's process for reporting sexual harassment. Many companies have hotlines and HR departments where you can make a report. Some companies even have entire ethics offices that are there to help you when needed.

Of course, many people report retaliation after speaking up about sexual harassment. To make a federal report with the EEOC (also called filing a charge of discrimination), visit this link . There's also a lot that happens after you file a charge, and I recommend reading this helpful article from FindLaw to learn more.

If you need to talk, seek out help

Many victims of trauma, including sexual harassment, turn to therapists and counselors to help them heal. If you'd like to learn more about when to ask for help and what to expect in therapy, I encourage you to visit this page for more information .