Have you ever felt uncomfortable in the workplace? No, I’m not just talking about the universal disdain for being on the clock. For many people–overwhelmingly women–workplace stress goes beyond a desire to be chilling on the couch and becomes a legitimate safety concern. Sexual harassment permeates every facet of society, and the workplace is no exception.
There is a tendency to confuse sexual harassment with sexual assault, leading many women to believe that because they’ve never been physically touched, they haven’t been victimized. This false narrative that being touched is the only form of harassment leads many women to believe that they simply have to grin and bear it–that being made to feel uncomfortable is just the reality of existing as a woman.
It’s crucial to remember that sexual harassment isn’t inherently about sex. Rather, it’s about power. By making sexist jokes or delivering unwanted romantic attention to a coworker, you are demonstrating that you have power over them–a power so prominent that you don’t fear retaliation for your actions. 60% of women have reported experiencing such unwanted attention or receiving sexist comments–and that’s just the one’s brave enough to speak out.
I am a 20-year-old woman who has never been in a physical work environment in which I was not a victim of sexual harassment. And despite being outspoken, a feminist, and an advocate for protecting victims from these scenarios, I’ve never once spoken up to an employer about my experience. Oftentimes, it was because my employers themselves were the ones making me uncomfortable. It's always been because I was scared, and felt alone.
You’re not alone, and you don’t have to tolerate discomfort. Document, report, and if all else fails, reach out for legal representation. #MeToo