WebMD BlogsRelationships

Coping With Sexual Harassment

woman at desk with man looking over her shoulder
Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD - Blogs
By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhDPsychologistJanuary 24, 2018
From the WebMD Archives

The problem of sexual harassment is often minimized, ignored, and even made light of. But its impact is serious: being harassed can be emotionally overwhelming and confusing, and it can leave you feeling uncomfortable and doubting yourself.

To help you sort through your thoughts and feelings and to decide how to respond, consider the following:

Listen to your gut. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission describes sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.” But, as you probably know, people often disagree about which behaviors cross the line into harassment.

Sometimes the sexual harassment is unmistakable, such as unwelcomed touching or kissing; or being told you will be hired if you have sex with the boss. Other situations may be harder to assess, such as repeated compliments or sexual jokes.

Because it can be hard to pin down, it is important to listen to your gut. If you feel that you are being harassed, then it is probably happening. But even if there is just some kind of misunderstanding, something is wrong – and that something needs to be addressed.

Remember you are not alone. If you decide that you are being sexually harassed, then it can help to know that many others struggle with the same problem. The Barna Group found that about 29% of Americans report being sexually harassed. Also, a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that almost half of workingwomen in the U.S. report being harassed in the workplace.

Reach out for support. Talk with someone who is emotionally supportive and whose judgment you trust. Hopefully that person can comfort you while helping you to gain clarity about your situation – such as labeling the offending actions and thinking about how those actions have affected you emotionally, personally, and professionally.

Take action. Decide what actions you can and want to take based on your assessment of your situation. To help you with this, you might want to talk with human resources, a manager, or even look for resources online.

Timesupnow.com has many suggestions for how to recognize and respond to sexual harassment. For instance, if you think it might help and you feel safe enough, talk with the harasser. Clearly explain the problem behavior and state that you want them to stop. Some other possible responses are to report the harassment to your employer, involve your union, and file a lawsuit. Whatever your situation, it is important to keep good records of all incidents and communications.

Through this whole process, remember that you are not alone, don’t deserve to be harassed, and don’t have to submit to it.

WebMD Blog
© 2018 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.
Blog Topics:
About the Author
Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD

Dr. Becker-Phelps is a licensed psychologist in NJ and NY, and is on staff at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Somerset. She is dedicated to helping people understand themselves and what they need to do to become emotionally and psychologically healthy. She accomplishes this through her work as a psychotherapist, speaker and writer. She is the author of Bouncing Back from Rejection and Insecure in Love.

More from the Relationships Blog

  • giving advice

    Think Twice Before You Give Advice

    If only we were as good at solving our own problems as we are at solving other people’s. But like so many great ideas, our solutions for others often become less perfect the more we learn about the problem ...

  • photo of couple arguing in bed

    How to Keep Your Emotions From Overwhelming You

    If you’re someone who gets emotionally overwhelmed, relationship conflict can be difficult to manage. When you get upset with your partner, you don’t handle it well. You are too upset to think clearly. So you ...

View all posts on Relationships

Latest Blog Posts on WebMD

View all blog posts

Important: The opinions expressed in WebMD Blogs are solely those of the User, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of WebMD. Blogs are not reviewed by a WebMD physician or any member of the WebMD editorial staff for accuracy, balance, objectivity, or any other reason except for compliance with our Terms and Conditions. Some of these opinions may contain information about treatments or uses of drug products that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service or treatment.

Do not consider WebMD Blogs as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your care plan or treatment. WebMD understands that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified health care provider. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or dial 911 immediately.

Read More