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If you have been sexually harassed in your workplace, what should your next steps be?

Living with sexual harassment in your life is never easy and it can take a massive toll on your overall well-being. It can affect men and women alike and can turn an otherwise pleasant professional situation into an environment of fear and mistreatment. Unfortunately, it is all too common in modern workplaces.

Recent polls have shown that as many as 1 out of every 3 women between the ages of 18 and 36 have been sexually harassed in their places of employment. Despite these staggering statistics, the majority of cases go unreported. Many victims do not report their harassment because they fear for their continued employment and they are concerned that they may lose their jobs if they report their harassers or because they are not sure what steps they should take if they do choose to seek help. Here are some steps for those looking to move toward justice in their workplace.

Communication

Oftentimes, harassing behavior is the result of the social environment in which the harasser was raised. For many, this leads them to consider their actions normal despite the disrespect they are showing for others. If someone's behavior is making you uncomfortable the first thing you should do is to clearly communicate to them that their behavior is inappropriate, it is negatively impacting your well-being and is preventing you from focusing on your job. Ideally, this communication will be enough for them to change their behavior. If you have communicated with your harasser about the impact of their actions and they refuse to change their behavior, then you will have to move on to more formal methods.

Reporting

Companies will generally have Human Resource departments that will handle all matters like this. If so, it should be your first stop. If the organization for which you work does not have such a department, you should notify your supervisor. For some people, their supervisor is the one who is harassing them, in which case you should notify your supervisor's immediate superior.

If you have taken all available steps within your organization and the harassing behavior has still not changed you may have to take legal measures. Sexual harassment is illegal according to federal law, so it is important to be aware of the fact that the individuals who are harassing you do not have any legal justification to do so. Some legal professional specialize in sexual harassment and individual rights, so they will be able to guide you through the legal process in an attempt to provide you with justice.

Again, sexual harassment is illegal. No one is justified in behaving in such a way that forces others to live in an environment of intimidation and fear. In a culture where this type of behavior is so common, it is the reporting of it that will raise awareness and, hopefully, result in positive change for you and others. If you find yourself living in such a situation, actively take steps toward resolving the issue.

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