Sexual Harassment Awareness Series No. 6: Stopping Sexual Harassment
If possible, and if the harassment is not too severe or violent, directly confronting the harasser may be useful. Also, although having protested is not necessary for a claim, it would strongly strengthen a claim.
Confronting harassment, the following steps are recommended:
- Do the unexpected: Name the behaviour. Whatever he’s/she’s just done, say it, and be specific. For example, “Stop touching me XXX,”.
- Hold the harasser accountable for his/her actions. Don’t make excuses for him/her; don’t pretend it didn’t really happen. Take charge of the encounter and let people know what he/she did. Privacy protects harassers, but visibility undermines them.
- Make honest, direct statements. Speak the truth (no threats, no insults, no obscenities, no appeasing verbal fluff and padding). Be serious, straightforward, and blunt.
- Demand that the harassment stop.
- Make it clear that all women/men have the right to be free from sexual harassment. Objecting to harassment is a matter of principle.
- Stick to your own agenda. Don’t respond to the harasser’s excuses or diversionary tactics.
- His/her behaviour is the issue. Say what you have to say, and repeat it if he/she persists.
- Reinforce your statements with strong, self-respecting body language: eye contact, head up, shoulders back, a strong, serious stance. Don’t smile. Timid, submissive body language will undermine your message.
- Respond at the appropriate level. Use a combined verbal and physical response to physical harassment.
End the interaction on your own terms, with a strong closing statement: “You heard me. Stop harassing women/men.”
Documenting the harassment is important for use as evidence in a case or complaint.
- Photograph or keep copies of any offensive material at the workplace.
- Keep a journal with detailed information on instances of sexual harassment. Note the dates, conversation, frequency of offensive encounters, etc.
- Tell other people, including personal friends and co-workers if possible.
- Obtain copies of your work records (including performance evaluations) and keep these copies at home
As part of the efforts by the Practitioner’s Affairs Committee to educate and empower its members, the PAC continues with its Sexual Harassment awareness series, focusing on what one can do when faced with sexual harassment.
If you have been the victim of sexual harassment, do not stay silent. Take action and contact the Kuala Lumpur Bar Committee or submit your complaint here.