Understanding what sexual harassment is

by | Apr 23, 2019 | General

What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that is done either to offend, humiliate or intimidate another person, or where it is reasonable to expect the person might feel that way.
It can be written, verbal or physical, and can happen in person or online.
Both men and women can be the victims of sexual harassment. When it happens at work, school or uni, it may amount to sex discrimination and is prohibited by the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991

What does it include?

Sexual harassment occurs when someone:
• Subjects another person to uninvited acts of physical intimacy. This can include touching, grabbing or making other physical contact with you without your consent.
• Making uninvited demands or request for sexual favours whether directly or by implication.
• Making remarks with sexual connotations.
• Displaying rude and offensive material so that you or others can see it.
• Making sexual gestures or suggestive body movements towards you.
• Questioning you about your sex life.
• Insulting you with sexual comments.
• Sexual harassment does not have to be deliberate or repeated to be illegal.
• Some sexual harassment, such as sexual assault, indecent exposure and stalking is also a criminal offence.
• Sexual harassment can happen anywhere – while at work, in a shop or restaurant, at school or college, when looking for accommodation, or when dealing with tradespeople, businesses or state or local government officials.

When does sexual harassment become sexual assault?

If someone is sexually harassing you in a way that causes you to feel humiliation, pain, fear or intimidation, then this can be considered sexual assault.
Some forms of sexual harassment, such as sexual assault, indecent exposure and stalking is also a criminal offence.

How sexual harassment can affect you

If you’re being sexually harassed, you might:
• feel stressed, anxious or depressed
• withdraw from social situations
• lose confidence and self-esteem
• have physical symptoms of stress, such as headaches, backaches or sleep problems
• be less productive and unable to concentrate.

Sexual harassment can seriously impact upon your mental health and can lead to depression and in sever circumstances, post-traumatic stress disorder. If you feel as if you are suffering from any of the above, you should speak to your medical practitioner as soon as possible.

What can you do?

No one deserves, or asks, to be sexually harassed. Everyone has the right to work and live in an environment that’s free from harassment, bullying, discrimination and violence. Sexual harassment is illegal (under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984).
Here are some things you can do:

– Talk to the offender
You can talk to the person or people involved. Tell them that you object to what they are doing, and ask them to stop.
– Take action
If the harassment happened at work ask your manager, union representative or contact officer what you might do. If your workplace has a process for dealing with complaints, you could lodge a complaint with your employer.
– Keep a diary
Document everything that happens, including when it occurred, the names of any people who saw what happened, and what you’ve done to try to stop it.
– Save any evidence
Keep text messages, social media comments, notes and emails. This evidence can help if you make a complaint.
– Speak to witnesses
If anybody witnesses the inappropriate conduct being directed toward you, see if they would be willing to provide a statement if required.
– Tell someone
Sexual harassment isn’t something you need to deal with on your own. In the workplace, it might be worth talking to your HR manager, who will be able to help you decide what to do. You might also want to talk to a trusted work colleague, friend or family member about what’s going on.
– Seek legal advice
Logan Law are experts in Sexual Harassment. If you are being subjected to this type of behaviour, we can take immediate action to have it stopped and can lodge claims on your behalf to get the compensation and justice you are entitled to.

Is your employer responsible for what happens in your workplace?

Your employer together with any people who sexually harass you can be liable for what happened to you. This is known as ‘vicarious liability’.
Employers must take reasonable steps to ensure they protect their staff from sexual harassment and other types of discrimination and vilification so as to ensure that their workplaces are free from this type of behaviour.
Employers should have an effective system in place for dealing with complaints as well as written policies so as to ensure that all staff are trained in how to reduce or prevent incidents from happening.
Employers or organisations cannot avoid their legal responsibility by saying that they were not aware of sexual harassment in their workplace.

If you’ve been experiencing sexual harassment in your workplace, give us a call on 1300 931 507 to discuss your options.

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