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You gather up the courage to go to a large singles dance, determined that you’re going to break out of your comfort zone. You wear your best clothes and pay extra attention to your grooming. You psyche yourself up, reminding yourself that it’s all about practicing how to seize the moment, practice making conversation and hopefully making friends. You choose to detach from expectations or outcomes and simply enjoy the event as a way of networking.
You arrive and take initiative and begin talking with a group of people who are receptive to your friendliness. You are the paragon of an Empowered Single.
And lo and behold, you actually meet someone who is funny, attractive and charming and you hit it off. By the end of the evening, you two exchange phone numbers and arrange to meet up with each other again in a few days.
So far so good, right?
So you meet up again – two more times in fact – and you begin to think that, while you’re going to take your time to make sure he fits with your values and life vision, perhaps there is potential here. You start to feel hopeful…
… when out of the blue, he texts you graphic pictures of his privates. You’re shocked and upset and you don’t know what to do. You feel violated and ashamed.
You’ve just been a victim of sexual harassment.
Now I KNOW that members of my Empowered Singles community would be flabbergasted by this kind of behavior and yet it happens. In fact, sexual harassment has happened to several members of the Empowered Singles community.
What is sexual harassment?
Most people think that sexual harassment is often found in work environments but it can happen in any area of our lives. (And it’s an equal opportunity crime.) Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome or uninvited sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. The keywords are Unwanted and Uninvited – whether explicit or not. The courts have generally concluded that a victim need not say or do a particular thing to indicate “unwelcomeness”.
Any of the following unwanted behavior may constitute sexual harassment:
- wolf whistles
- discussion of one’s partner’s sexual inadequacies
- sexual innuendo
- comments about women’s bodies
- ‘accidentally’ brushing sexual parts of the body
- lewd & threatening letters
- tales of sexual exploitation
- graphic descriptions of pornography
- pressure for dates
- sexually explicit gestures
- unwelcome touching and hugging
- sexual sneak attacks, (e.g., grabbing breasts or buttocks )
- sabotaging women’s work
- sexist and insulting graffiti
- demanding, “Hey, baby, give me a smile”
- inappropriate invitations (e.g., hot tub)
- sexist jokes and cartoons
- hostile put-downs of women
- exaggerated, mocking ‘courtesy’
- public humiliation
- obscene phone calls
- displaying pornography in the workplace
- insisting that workers wear revealing clothes in the workplace
- inappropriate gifts (ex. Lingerie or sex toys)
- hooting, sucking, lip-smacking, & animal noises
- pressing or rubbing up against the victim
- sexual assault
- soliciting sexual services
- leaning over , invading a person’s space
- indecent exposure
In the Empowered Singles community, there is ZERO tolerance for this kind of behavior. If someone finds they are victim to sexual harassment, they are encouraged to not let it slide. Some people believe that the best course of action is to sweep it under the rug, to not make a scene, thinking that people will “blame the victim” or judge them poorly. Even if our society is prone to blaming the victim, it’s important to not let that sway you from taking action. Any proactive steps you take now could prevent someone else from falling victim.
If you’re not clear what territory you occupy with a potential date, remember this: Consent is a verbal agreement between people BEFORE they engage in any kind of activity. Both people have to say “YES!” clearly and freely. Consent must given willingly and without physical or emotional duress. How do you know if you have consent? ASK!!!
So here are some simple steps you can take, if you find yourself subject to unwanted sexual provocations.
- Do the unexpected: Name the behavior and be specific.
- Hold the harasser accountable for his actions. Don’t make excuses for him; don’t pretend it didn’t really happen. Take charge of the encounter and let people know what he did. Privacy protects harassers, but visibility undermines them.
- Make honest, direct statements. Speak the truth (no threats, no insults, no obscenities, no appeasing verbal fluff and padding). Be serious, straightforward, and blunt.
- Demand that the harassment stop.
- Make it clear that everyone has the right to be free from sexual harassment. Objecting to harassment is a matter of principle.
- Stick to your own agenda. Don’t respond to the harasser’s excuses or diversionary tactics.
- The behavior is the issue. Say what you have to say, and repeat it if he persists.
- Reinforce your statements with strong, self-respecting body language: eye contact, head up, shoulders back, a strong, serious stance. Don’t smile. Timid, submissive body language will undermine your message.*
Legal Remedies for Sexual Harassment
If you decide to file a complaint, think about consult an attorney, although you are not required to retain counsel in order to file. Attorney referrals can be obtained by contacting local women’s centers, rape crisis centers or national women’s organizations, your union (if member), specialized employee interest groups, law schools, legal aid community services, state Fair Employment Practice (FEP) agencies, or state Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) offices. In addition, your friends and professional contacts may know suitable attorneys.
Of course there may be some residual emotional aftereffects such as lack of trust, depression, high blood pressure and sleep problems. If you find that you are beginning to show such symptoms, please get support immediately.
In the meantime, check out these resources below.
Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network: https://www.rainn.org/
Feminist Majority Foundation: http://www.feminist.org/911/harasswhatdo.html
State Laws on Stalking: http://statelaws.findlaw.com/new-jersey-law/new-jersey-stalking-laws.html
NJ Lawman – law enforcement magazine: http://www.njlawman.com/new-jersey-title-2c/2c-33-4-harassment.htm
* Tips via the Feminist Majority Foundation