Cleaning out a box of papers the other day, I came across an old photocopy of advice about what to do if you are sexually harassed. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the current emphasis on legal and institutional remedies to sexual violence and the political limits of those. I like AFSCME’s advice below, because it’s a practical combination of pursuing “in-house” channels and protecting your own damned self.
What to do if you are sexually harassed
- Let the harasser know you do not welcome the advances.
- State your objections clearly and in a loud voice when the problem first arises. Do not wait for it to go away. It usually does not.
- If the harassment continues, write an email to the harasser detailing your objections and keep a copy.
- Do not keep the problem to yourself. Go to your steward or the individual who is designated to receive complaints about sexual harassment. Complain through “in-house” channels.
- Document what has happened to you, listing dates, locations, and possible witnesses. Write down every incident and your responses word for word. Give copies of your documentation to your steward or a friend as incidents occur.
- Pursue the problem through the grievance procedure or other formal methods for resolving problems.
- Get copies of your personnel files to prepare yourself for possible claims that your work has been poor.
- Get support. Confide in friends and co-workers. Talk to relatives who might be sympathetic. Search out sexual assault support centers or groups that deal with issues of sexual violence.
- Get witnesses. If incidents of harassment occur when someone else is around, have them write up what they observed and sign the statement.
- Locate other victims. Harassers often go after more than one woman. If you can locate other victims, you will have a stronger case at every level. This will also enhance your credibility.
- Do not get discouraged. By reporting the problem, you are helping other people as well as maintaining your own self-respect.
Adapted from A Guide to Women’s Rights and Responsibilities: We Hold These Rights. AFSCME, 1980