Victims of sexual harassment should not feel embarrassed or ashamed to admit their abuse because of certain myths and stereotypes surrounding it. Such potential stigma or shame should not prevent them from coming forward, nor should any misconceptions about the law.
MYTH: Sexual harassment is a woman’s problem.
FALSE: Sexual harassment is not just a women’s issue, it is an issue for men too. Everyone, regardless of gender, can be the victim of harassment or a harasser. Although it is true that men can be harassed by females. Moreover, men can sexually harass each other, and women can harass women.
MYTH: People invite sexual harassment by their behavior and/or dress, or have a ‘responsibility’ to avoid sexual harassment.
FALSE: Other than the harasser, no one has a responsibility to avoid sexual harassment, especially a victim. Actually, studies show all kinds of people can be vulnerable to sexual harassment: a man or woman in a suit, college students who wear jeans and sweatshirts, firefighters and police officers in uniform, as well as women who dress in a more traditionally “feminine” way. This is because, in truth, it does not matter what a person wears or does not wear. People of all genders, ages, races, ethnic groups, and physical abilities are harassed, regardless of how they act or what they wear.
MYTH: Sexual harassment is a top-down problem.
FALSE: Sexual harassers can be anyone, not just a boss or supervisor. A victim can be harassed by their co-worker, boss, CEO, subordinate or even a non-employer, such as a customer or a vendor. All can be viable legal actions.
MYTH: The person harassed is the only victim.
FALSE: The person harassed is not the only victim. The parties who witness harassment or are aware of it may also be victims of harassment. Sexual harassment may make an uncomfortable work environment for everyone. If you are a witness to inappropriate behavior or asked to keep quiet someone else’s misconduct, you are directly affected. Such behavior creates a hostile work environment for other employees who were not actually the target of the behavior.
MYTH: The behavior must be repeated to be sexual harassment.
FALSE: Sexual harassment could consist of repeated actions, or may arise from one single incident, if it is sufficiently egregious. Once can be enough because the law provides that the offensiveness of alleged harassment needs to be either “pervasive” (meaning, happening often) or “severe” (meaning, shocking to the system even if observed or done only once).
MYTH: Harassment requires touching.
FALSE: Unlawful workplace behavior comes in many forms: it could be verbal, emotional. physical, or digital. It could also be a combination of behaviors over a significant period of time. Or, the harassment can be a serious, severe one-time incident. There is no ‘typical’ form of harassment.
MYTH: Sexual harassment does not occur in my professional field.
FALSE: Inappropriate workplace behavior can happen anywhere and to anyone. From a medical office to a marketing firm to a shipyard, any working person can be harassed in any working situation. As shown by the “Me Too” movement, there is no ‘typical’ harassing situation. Victims and harassers come from a variety of fields, including entertainment, government, Wall Street, and corporate America.
MYTH: There are adequate procedures to take care of people who seriously assault or threaten others at work.
FACT: Society continues to view sexual harassment from a double standard and victims bear the brunt of the blame. At times, personnel managers, human resources, human rights agencies, union representatives, courts, and legislators reflect these discriminatory attitudes. Those who seek assistance from such sources are frequently placing themselves at risk of humiliating indifference, ridicule, or event further harassment. Nevertheless, it is important to use the appropriate channels and follow a company’s procedures in place when being subject to discrimination in the workplace, to whatever extent possible.
We at the Derek Smith Law Group, PLLC are steadfast advocates for our clients. We are here to break the stigma and set the record straight for sexual harassment victims in and around NYC.
If you feel like you need help or a way out contact the experienced New York City sexual harassment attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group, PLLC. Our attorneys have years of experience litigating claims of sexual harassment and gender discrimination. If you feel you have been discriminated against because of your gender, please give our attorneys a call at (800) 807-2209 for a free consultation.
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