Sexual Harassment Info Sheet
Q1: I am the victim of sexual harassment, what steps can I take to protect myself?
1. Determine the type of harassment
a. Verbal/Audio – people making inappropriate comments about your body parts.
b. Physical – inappropriate touching of body without consent.
c. Written – messages sent via text messages, emails etc.
d. Visual/Photographic - which includes sharing of unsolicited pornographic photographs.
2. Determine Method of harassment
a. Private Messages – All private messaging software provides a block function. Use it well.
b. Social Media – Twitter/Facebook etc allows you to report inappropriate behaviour.
i. If Twitter/FB didn’t consider it abusive – Appeal the decision.
ii. While process is ongoing – Block the perpetrator.
iii. He still created dummy accounts to harass me – Document that, report and block the perpetrator.
c. Physical/At the workplace – Consult your Human Resources Department or your employer or someone you trust in the administration on the Internal Sexual Harassment policies and procedures that your Company has, if they haven’t trained you already.
i. Why? – Most well run companies have HR with sensitivity training and internal reporting process in place. They are required to do so under the Employment Act.
1. Protect yourself – Evidence that you have attempted and gone through the internal reporting processing process provides you with documents that protect you in case your situation ends up with you being. unemployed etc, of which you can sue your Company/employer for unfair dismissal.
2. Ensure your career is not affected.
ii. In extreme cases where this does not work and the behaviour continues – lodge a police report.
iii. Where alleged perpetrator comes after you at home or new workplace now – lodge a police report.
d. Last resort – Consult a lawyer in order to acquire a civil form of restraint, stopping the perpetrator from coming near you via Court process.
i. This method is lengthy and will require Court attendance.
e. At home/ by family members.
i. Ask them to stop.
ii. Report to respected family matriarch/patriarch or a respected elder to advise the offensive family member to stop or act as mediator.
1. It doesn’t work, I wasn’t heard/respected for claiming this happened to me. If you don’t feel safe, an extreme solution is to move out.
iii. We live separately – It happens during family gathering
1. Report to respected family matriarch/patriarch or a respected elder to advise the offensive family member to stop or act as mediator.
2. If family isn’t supportive, stop contacting/connecting with said family member or attending events with the perpetrator around.
3. Last resort –Consult a lawyer in order to acquire a civil form of restraint, stopping the perpetrator from coming near your family home. That can be a form of Restraining Order issued by the Court via Court process.
3. Methods of Resolution
a. Mediation – Both you and the perpetrator would appoint a lawyer to be a Mediator as a third party to come to an acceptable arrangement between both parties that both will have to honor.
i. Usually pursued when you just want the behaviour to stop without affecting other aspects of your life. It is rather informal.
ii. It is private and confidential, both parties have more control over the outcome rather than the Court making the unilateral decision for you, it is a mutual effort to find a solution that works for both alleged perpetrator and victim.
iii. The Mediator are usually trained in handling very difficult and emotionally charged situations so you’d have support with you.
b. Court order or other Court Process
i. Filing a civil suit in Court – I have repeated that this is to me a method of last resort when internal processes, support system by way of authoritative elders in the family or Human Resources Department, filing a police report and even Mediation does not work.
Q2: I want to be supportive to the victim, what do I do?
1. Make time, listen, and ask what the victim needs in the medium he or she approached you with. Sometimes all that someone needs is one true friend. Life is juggling balls, some are made of rubber that bounces back up even when you drop it, not being there for a friend in need are glass balls that break when you drop it.
2. Assist the person to decide which cause of action is best. Help the victim in collecting relevant screenshots, photos, physical and mental health medical reports, etc basically a paper trail in building a strong case against the perpetrator. If she/he needs someone to accompany her/him at the police station, or just for emotional support. It is never easy for a victim to admit that this happened.
Q3: Both are my friends, I hesitate to take a stance because I thought they were both OK with each other. What do I do?
1. Do not invalidate the experience of the victim. If the issue is out in the open, having in mind the victim’s experience if you are close enough with the alleged (at this point lah if got solid evidence you won’t ask this question) perpetrator his version of the chronology of events, and whether that testimony is backed up by similar evidence. Then you decide.
2. Either way, you do not have to take sides, it is actually unfair for any party to ask you to take sides until the dispute is resolved/sorted. If it happens in front of your eyes take a stand, but when it’s more personal and between both people who has your affection and respect over things that you have not witnessed at all it is difficult to make that decision. Choose well.
This is Azira Aziz combining my Policy Analyst hat with my Lawyer hat. Please feel free to email me at Aziraaziz.firstname.lastname@example.org for any discussion relating to law and policy.