On Facebook and other social media pages, a story has been circulating about Merritt Smith and her four-year-old daughter; Smith took her daughter to the emergency room for stitches after she was hit in the face by a boy at school. After explaining what happened, an employee at the hospital told the child, “I bet he likes you.”

Perhaps this isn’t an exact instance of sexual harassment, but it does show how some people write off violence as an “expression of love.” Ashley Austrew of scarymommy.com created a call to action in her article: we need to encourage young people to see violence for what it is. It definitely isn’t an expression of love or admiration. Aggression, harassment, and abuse are never acceptable.

This kind of harassment is happening in our schools, in our workplaces, and even in our emergency rooms. It’s happening to our children, our friends, ourselves.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature in the workplace or learning environment.

Many different kinds of conduct that are of a sexual nature may be sexual harassment if the behavior is unwelcome and is severe or pervasive. Workplacefairness.org outlines your legal rights and describes four types of conduct that could potentially be sexual harassment:

  • Verbal or written conduct: Comments about clothing, your body, sex-based jokes, requesting sexual favors or repeatedly asking you out, spreading rumors about your personal or sexual life.
  • Physical conduct: Rape or assault, blocking your movement, inappropriate touching, kissing, hugging, patting, stroking.
  • Nonverbal conduct: Looking your body over, derogatory gestures or facial expressions of a sexual nature, following or stalking you.
  • Visual displays: Posters, drawings, pictures, screensavers, or e-mails of a sexual nature.

If you feel that you are being sexually harassed at work, it’s important that you consult your employee handbook. If your employer has a sexual harassment policy in place, follow it. Make sure to put your complaints in writing and to take notes on the harassment; be specific in your details, noting the time and place of each incident, what was said and done, and who witnessed the actions.

It’s important that you speak up about sexual harassment. Chances are, if someone’s derogatory actions or jokes are bothering you, they are bothering others, too.  If you can, let the offending party know that you find their conduct offensive. Often, this will resolve the problem. If the issue isn’t resolved, you have at least put the harasser on notice that you find his or her conduct offensive.

If you don’t feel comfortable speaking directly to the person harassing you, go to your supervisor or human resources department. It’s time to make it clear to harassers that their behavior is unacceptable.

If you’d like to talk with Reka, you can reach her at 402-881-8125. You can also email her at reka@omaha-counseling.com. Make sure to follow us on Twitter or Facebook.

photo credit: Golf orosei 1 via photopin (license)