The fear of facing harassment at the workplace is not new for women. No matter where we go, there is always someone who might look at us inappropriately or pass an inappropriate remark. The most unfortunate thing is when women accept it as a part of being a woman.
Sexual harassment might occur at the hands of someone we would least expect it from. It might be a friend, colleague, acquaintance, or even a boss. When it happens, many times we are left dumbfounded, Even when we know it is wrong. We might not be able to react instantly, and that’s normal. It doesn’t happen on a regular basis after all, but what’s important is to acknowledge that it happened and face it. I took a friend to a doctor once, and we were never ready for what happened next. He was almost an older doctor, in his sixties. He started examining her stomach, and before we knew it, he had pulled her top up under the pretense of examination. Neither of us could register what just happened, and we left the clinic just like that. We were in a new place, without anyone we could trust, and did not know what to do.
When such incidences happen, they directly attack our being. We fear being judged, even though we are the victims. Many times we question ourselves before anyone else does. Being afraid is okay, But it is very important to understand that you are not at fault, and you definitely do not deserve to be treated like that.
An officer I know faced sexual harassment at the hands of her senior for a long time. When she had newly joined, she was moved by his generous gestures. She thought she had got a boss who really cared about his employees. Little did she know what she was about to face in the coming months. What started as inappropriate remarks soon turned into demands of sexual favors, and then strict actions for baseless reasons when these demands were refused. When she was pregnant, she was given more workload than most of the other employees. He did not sanction her maternity leave, even though it is a non-negotiable right of every working woman.
After surviving months of torture, she finally reported it to the higher authorities, but she was defamed for making false allegations against him out of spite. She, however, did not give up and continued to fight. The result was his suspension on the grounds of sexual harassment of a subordinate.
Experience has taught me that when things like this happen, we have to stand up for ourselves. What starts with little remarks can soon escalate into something more serious. Better safe than sorry! If you feel that a colleague or boss is talking to you inappropriately or crossing the line, confront them. Confrontation is something that they least expect. This will upset them and send a strong message that you are not someone to mess with.
If the behavior still doesn’t stop, inform higher authorities. Even if you see someone else being harassed, do the same. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself or someone else in a situation like this.
Every woman should have an emergency app on her smartphone. Many apps are designed for the safety of women. They have an emergency button which when activated in distress, sounds an alarm for help, sends the location of the device to emergency contacts, informs the police authorities, and also sends calls to the emergency contacts already listed in the application.
It is never too late to join self-defense training as well. These training sessions are a survival skill we must possess for our safety and others.
Stand up for what’s right, and do not accept any form of sexual assault or harassment from anyone, in the workplace, or out of work!