sexual harassment
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Sexual harassment - what is it?

An unwanted physical or verbal sexual behaviour/advance is called sexual harassment. It can be done by a person who is in authority toward a subordinate (such as an employee or student) or even some random man who brushes against your body on a public transport.

Sexual harassment can be many things. A woman who shows a sexual picture of you to everyone. A partner who doesn’t listen when you say you don’t want to have sex.

Some examples of sexual harassment

  • Blocking a person’s way; or standing in their way
  • Asking about someone's sex life/marriage life
  • Stalking someone, even on social media 
  • Creating some's fake profile on social media 
  • Passing on someone's number, without their permission 
  • Forcefully hugging or kissing someone
  • Calling special name such as jaanu, baby, sweety etc for someone who is not intimate with you 
  • Brushing up against someone in a public place or otherwise and making it look ‘unintentional’ or ‘accidental’
  • Checking up a person’s body by staring at it
  • Stalking someone, following them everyday or paying specific attention to them in particular
  • Making fun of someone’s SOGI - sexual orientation or gender identity or even questioning them about it
  • Making vulgar jokes or even sharing experiences/stories about sex and its experience– even if this is not about you but done in your presence to make you uncomfortable
  • Sending messages/pictures that are unwanted/lewd or have sexual connotations via any forms of communication like emails/sms/or any other form of communication
  • Displaying/sharing pictures likes sexual screensavers on your computer at workplace
  • Making other person uncomfortable by any lewd or sexually offensive signs/facial expressions
  • Touching, kissing (even air kissing), caressing a person’s clothing or body part inappropriately and suggestively
  • Repeatedly asking for dates despite being rebuffed or asking for sexual favours
  • Making sexually offensive gestures, remarks or facial expressions like smooching noises or winks
  • Repeatedly asking someone to go on a date or have sexual intercourse
  • Threatening someones to make sexual relationships in lieu of giving them favours
  • Having sex against someone’s will, even in marital relationships 

Tips to avoid harassment

  • Be clear about your intentions what you want and what you don’t want.
  • Be careful with recordings with a webcam. The video can be passed on to other people.
  • Don’t let someone put you under pressure. Don’t think you’re strange if you say no. It’s your body and your choice!
  • Stop a friendship or relationship if the other person doesn’t respect you.
  • Don’t say ‘maybe’ if you mean ‘no’

Usually someone you know

It’s usually someone you know who goes beyond your limits. Your boyfriend or girlfriend, an internet date or a teacher at school… This makes it complicated to say you don’t want it. You like someone, but you don’t like what they’re doing. It’s best to be very clear about what you want and don’t want. Don’t say ‘maybe’ if you mean ‘no’.

Men too 

It’s not only women who run into unwanted sexual behaviour. Men can also be sexually harassed. For example by a sports trainer who likes you, or your best friend’s older brother who wants to show you what a blow-job is. Or by your partner who doesn’t want you to break up with them

Worst case scenario 

If the worst happens and someone forces you to have sex, don’t keep it to yourself. Tell someone and talk about it. It’s a terrible experience to be sexually assaulted or raped. It's natural to feel absolutely devastated.

You might want to spend hours under the shower and preferably forget about what has happened as quickly as possible. But you can’t because the memories keep coming back. You might have nightmares and feel terrified of meeting the person who assaulted or raped you. You can feel very small and alone. You might also have pain in your abdomen or genitals. You might be scared you are pregnant or have caught a sexually transmitted disease. If so, go to the doctor or a clinic and get a check up.

What can you do? 

Talk about it. Choose someone you trust: your mother, your best friend, your sister, your father, someone at school, or someone via internet if you prefer. Tell them what has happened. Ask for support so you feel stronger again. And think about whether you want to report what has happened to the police – realistically, this may depend on where you live.

Sexual harassment at workplace

If you or someone you know has been sexually harassed at workplace, then ask then to approach the Internal Complaints Committee to file an official complaint. By law, every organisation that has 10 or more employees is supposed to have an Internal Complaints Committee The ICC is made up of staff including at least half women members, and must be headed by a senior woman employee. The ICC must also have an external member. 

In organisations that have less than 10 employees, harassment complaints can be made to a district-level Local Complaints Committee or to the woman’s wing at the local police station. For more details read this article - My colleague touched my breasts

Guilt and shame

Victims often feel guilty – they think it’s their own fault. Which it isn’t! No one has the right to force another person to have sex. Even if you’re his girlfriend, or you said yes the last time. And also not because you’re wearing a sexy dress or you let him buy you a drink.

Victims also feel ashamed or embarrassed. You think everyone can tell what’s happened to you. Anyone who’s been forced to have sex against their will feels like this. It’s normal. You’re not overreacting. Your confidence has taken a serious knock, you feel like the world is a lot less safe and friendly place than you thought it was.

You might also feel repulsed by men, or sex, or your own body. If you feel deeply unhappy, depressed or afraid, you should seek help.

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