Reporting sexual harassment is a choice, speaking up against it is a must. The ‘ Me too’ campaign launched in October 2017 encouraged women in all walks of life to share their stories relating to sexual harassment. This movement enlightened me, it brought back memories of encounters I have had in social situations.
My first experience was at the age of 20. I was on holiday back in my home country (Liberia, West Africa). A well known event promoter by the name Double H showed interest in my clothing designs. He invited me to his place to try on my menswear collection. I was a young girl eager to promote my brand, therefore my safety was an afterthought. After a brief chat on his couch he went in for a kiss, I resisted and stood up. He then forced himself on me, I felt helpless. I tried to push him away, but the harder I pushed, the tighter he held onto me. I stood still for a while, he managed to convince himself I was in compliance so he let go. I walked towards the door and made up a flimsy excuse as to why I had to leave. Surprisingly he offered me a ride to my next destination. During the awkward car ride I couldn’t help but feel violated, however I was unaware the incident was a form of sexual harassment.
‘Me too’ campaign opened a Pandora box most women kept well hidden in fear of backlash or victim shaming. I can’t help but think of adolescent girls and women who have had their dignity violated, yet are clueless of the consequences of sexual harassment. Young women are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment, thus it is important to educate young women on the effects of experiencing sexual harassment as well as how to recognise and tackle sexual harassment.
You can do this by keeping the conversation going with young women in your family, on social media or within your community. There are two types of sexual harassment that are legally recognised.
Quid pro quo means “this for that.” In this context, it involves expressed or implied demands for sexual favours in exchange for some benefit (e.g., a promotion, pay increase) or to avoid some detriment (e.g., termination, demotion) in the workplace. Quid pro quo harassment is perpetrated by someone who is in a position of power or authority over another (e.g., manager or supervisor over a subordinate). A clear example of quid pro quo harassment would be a supervisor threatening to fire an employee if he or she does not have sex with the supervisor.- Society For Human Resource Management.
Hostile work environment harassment arises when speech or conduct is so severe and pervasive it that creates an intimidating or demeaning environment or situation that negatively affects a person’s job performance. Unlike quid pro quo harassment, this type of harassment can be perpetrated by anyone in the work environment, including a peer, supervisor, subordinate, vendor, customer or contractor. Hostile work environment situations are not as easy to recognize, given that an individual comment or occurrence may not be severe, demeaning behaviour may occur that is not based on sex, and there may be long periods between offensive incidents. Examples of conduct that might create a hostile work environment include inappropriate touching, sexual jokes or comments, repeated requests for dates and a work environment where offensive pictures are displayed- Society For Human Resource Management.