Sexual harassment in the work place – a confusing situation

Dear CureTalk readers,

Today I wanted to write about something that at first may not seem health related, but is actually directly related to health and wellbeing.

Sexual harassment at the workplace, upon initially contemplating it, may spark images of dirty old men, verbally abusing or inappropriately touching their female employees.  The female employees are probably complaining, asking them to stop and look annoyed.  Well I’d like to paint a different picture that is probably much more common.

The man who harasses his female employees or any female for that matter is usually a very powerful man. Powerful men are deeply self confident, usually very wealthy and are used to getting what they want.  Many women are attracted to powerful men. Woven into many women’s DNA are genes that program women to romantically seek out men who are powerful, commanding, are high earners so that they and their family might eventually be protected and well taken care of.  What typically happens is that a powerful man begins flirting with his female employees. At first the women reject his sexual jokes and innuendos, but he might then begin complimenting them, purchasing lunch or meals for them or driving them places.  Small favors and compliments are showered upon these women.  He may begin to open up to them, sharing intimate details about his life, his relationships, his finances and eventually his sexual fantasies.  The female employees slowly become swept up in a world of possibility with this powerful man.

The women might say to themselves, “Oh wow, this millionaire might actually like me.  This very powerful man might actually want to be with me. I think I like him. Let me let him know that and begin flirting with him in the hopes that one day he will want to date me and perhaps eventually take care of me.”

So after a period of time, it could be weeks or months that flirting and romantic/sexual connotations are exchanged.  Bear in mind however, that key differences between someone who actually likes and respects you versus someone who wants to use you to play out his sexual fantasies with are the following:

  • There might not be any dating
  • There might not be any kissing
  • There might not be any hugging
  • The male brings up sexual fantasies that seem scary, aggressive and painful or are unwelcome by you
  • The male suggests that explicit sexual acts be performed with him such as oral sex, anal sex etc.
  • The male begins to verbally or physically assault the female with unwanted comments, suggestions, gestures, touches or even forced sexual acts

Ladies, if this sounds familiar to you, the minute you no longer welcome these verbal or physical offenses, all you need to do is say STOP.  Where there is a lack of consent is where a man breaks the law.  Use the law as tools to your advantage.  Protect yourself and respect yourself.

If you feel you have been a victim of a sexual offense, tell people.  If if you flirted with and confessed feelings for someone who then pushed the limit with you, it’s OK, you are not alone and this probably happens more than any of us would like to think about. Talk to people. DO NOT process this on your own. Tell people you trust about what happened. Get advice on what steps you want to take.  You will find your way. The feelings of anger, numbness, shock and disgust do subside. You will be able to think clearly about things.  Most importantly, if you chose to be around the man who committed sexual offenses against you, you must tell him to stop.

Each state will have this listing so be sure to check yours. I’ve found that Universities often clearly list terms, definition and penalties. I live in New York so here is a link to New York State definitions and laws. Know your rights!

Sarah Lawrence College – Sexual Offenses – Definitions and Penalties

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