How do I deal with sexual harassment?



image: © Brizendine

Sexual harassment, unfortunately, is not dead. It can come from coworkers, patients, even the families of patients (remember the dad-to-be who grabbed a nurse’s breasts ON THE WAY TO THE DELIVERY ROOM?)

Each year, approximately 15,000 sexual harassment cases are brought before the Equal Opportunity Commission. Of course, most cases go unreported. One study indicates that more than 60 percent of victims did nothing.

So what constitutes sexual harassment? According to Gardner and Johnson, harassing behaviors include:

* Verbal or sexual advances determined by the recipient as unwelcome
* Sexually oriented comments about someone’s body, appearance and/or lifestyle
* Offensive behavior such as leering, ridicule or innuendo
* Display of offensive visual materials
* Deliberate unwanted physical contact

If you are the target of any of these behaviors, say no. Firmly. Don’t worry about being “polite” or “nice.” The harasser already crossed that line. Then file a report according to your facility’s protocol. Don’t second-guess yourself; if someone’s behavior is making you uncomfortable and you’ve asked him to stop—and he continues—it’s time to file a report. Document the incident as well. In a separate notebook, record what happened when, who was involved, what they said and who witnessed the behavior. That information may come in handy later, because if the behavior doesn’t stop, you’re entitled to legal recourse.

Finally, seek the support of friends, coworkers and family members. You deserve a safe, comfortable work environment.


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