Understanding Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

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Recently, a day doesn’t go by without learning about another high-profile case of sexual harassment. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has defined sexual harassment in its guidelines as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. It can also include offensive remarks about a person’s sex, and can be perpetrated by either sex. Of the charges of sexual harassment filed with the EEOC in 2011 (latest stats), only 16% were filed by males.

Business Insider reports that in a recent poll, 45% of women polled said they have been sexually harassed at work – about 22.6 million women in the country. “The group that experienced the most harassment were women between the ages 30 and 44 — almost half (49%) said they had been sexually harassed at work. Not far behind, 47% of women ages 45 to 64 said they were sexually harassed at work, followed by 41% of women ages 18 to 20, and finally 40% of women 65 or older.”

Types of sexual harassment are many…

Actual or attempted rape or sexual assault.
Unwanted pressure for sexual favors.
Unwanted deliberate touching, leaning over, cornering, or pinching.
Unwanted sexual looks or gestures.
Unwanted letters, telephone calls, or materials of a sexual nature.
Unwanted pressure for dates.
Unwanted sexual teasing, jokes, remarks, or questions.
Referring to an adult as a girl, hunk, doll, babe, or honey.
Whistling at someone.
Cat calls.
Sexual comments.
Turning work discussions to sexual topics.
Sexual innuendos or stories.
Asking about sexual fantasies, preferences, or history.
Personal questions about social or sexual life.
Sexual comments about a person’s clothing, anatomy, or looks.
Kissing sounds, howling, and smacking lips.
Telling lies or spreading rumors about a person’s personal sex life.
Neck massage. Touching an employee’s clothing, hair, or body.
Giving personal gifts.
Hanging around a person.
Hugging, kissing, patting, or stroking.
Touching or rubbing oneself sexually around another person.
Standing close or brushing up against a person.
Looking a person up and down (elevator eyes).
Staring at someone.
Sexually suggestive signals.
Facial expressions, winking, throwing kisses, or licking lips.
Making sexual gestures with hands or through body movements.

The economic cost of sexual harassment to businesses is well-documented in the form of settlements, payoffs, and loss of business. And although perpetrators apologizing for harassment is beneficial, little recognition is given to the long-term impact on victims. Flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, anxiety, depression, even PTSD-like symptoms can often haunt and overwhelm a victim. What is more, the financial and career cost for victims is immense; a recent report on National Public Radio noted that nearly 80% of women who had experienced “severe” sexual harassment quit their jobs – immediately resulting in financial stress.

We have always known that prevention is much less expensive than attempting to “fix” the results of issues like sexual harassment. Chrysalis After-School (CAS) programs are all about prevention – prevention of school drop-out, high-risk behaviors, poor mental and physical health, and prevention of victimhood – by building strength and resilience to take care of themselves. Evaluations of Chrysalis after-School note that participants are twice as likely as other young girls to agree with the statement “I am a confident person” and 100% agree that they are hopeful about their future.

This is why Chrysalis After-School is the best “return on investment” we can make to assure that girls have the knowledge and confidence to become strong, self-assured, and successful women in the future.

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