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Protecting Yourself Against Sexual Harassment August 22, 2008

Posted by dapinoyemployee in Da Pinoy Employee.
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Sexual harassment can happen to anyone but no matter what, nobody deserves to be harassed or made uncomfortable.  To protect yourself, do the following:
Know your rights.
You have every right to protect yourself and to prevent anything that you deem uncomfortable or inappropriate to be done to you.  Check your company policies for rules regarding sexual harassment so you know exactly what you should do. 

Even if the company failed to include sexual harassment in their list of rules and regulations, know that as a citizen of this country, you are protected against sexual harassment under the R.A. (Republic Act) 7877 or the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995.

Here is a good online legal source for sexual harassment in the Philippines:

http://www.chanrobles.com/legal4antisexualharassmentact.htm

Disclaimer:  I am in no way affiliated or associated with the aforementioned site.  It is a good source of legal information, however and you might find the contents useful.

Establish your personal rules at the start.
If someone approaches you with a joke, note, picture, book or clipping, stares, gestures or touches you in ways that are inappropriate, go ahead and express your disapproval.  Say ‘no’ the first time around to let the person know that you do not like what he/she is doing.  Do this firmly – but don’t yell out or over-react, though – but make sure you send out a clear message.

If they insist and then tease you about being uptight, simply say, “That’s your opinion but you must understand I am entitled to mine.  And what you just did is not something I like or will encourage.”  If that person is smart, they will understand. 

Don’t cry wolf.
Malice has destroyed a lot of friendships in the past.  Make sure that should you charge someone of sexual harassment, it truly IS sexual harassment and not just some misused or lame joke.  If you make the mistake of falsely accusing someone of harassing you, you could either ruin their careers or make yourself the butt of jokes.

Avoid being alone with the person harassing you.
Allowing yourself to spend time with a person who has expressed some inappropriate attention means you’re leaving yourself open to some form of attack.  As much as possible, limit the time you spend together.  If you must, maintain a safe physical distance or make sure someone you trust is physically present or within earshot.

Document the incident/s.
In case someone does harass you sexually, write down everything that transpired in as much detail as you can.  Include the date, time and location, along with any witnesses to the event. 

If you like, you can even turn to technology if you don’t have any witnesses to vouch for you.  Use a voice recorder, a hidden camera with an audio (if you can get one) or simply use your trusty cellphone cam. 

Keep a copy of the video or audio in the original gadget and make a copy to keep in your computer (send it as a file in your e-mail account) or to send to a trusted friend.  Instruct this friend to never, ever open or forward the file to anyone else or you’ll be asking for trouble.  You can use these documents later in case of an investigation.

Ask for support.
If you have friends or confidants at the office, tell them but ask them not to spread the word.  Having people gossip about the event might be troublesome for you.  Just make sure people know about it.

Have your own legal support.
Investigations of sexual harassment cases are usually restricted in the office initially.  You will be asked to join a private conference with the HR, the person harassing you and probably, the General Manager or owner.  At some point, witnesses to the event/s will be called in but this is at the discretion of those involved.

Just in case the person you have filed a complaint against has a lawyer for his defense, you can ask for the conference to be delayed at a later time, until such time when you have a lawyer of your own.  If the other person has a lawyer at his or her side, you could be at a disadvantage. 

As a lesson, let me tell you about what happened to a former officemate of mine (let’s call her Norma) who was harassed by her boss.  After the event, she complained to the big boss, who owned the company.  She also detailed the event to the big boss’ secretary, who, it turns out, had no intentions of helping her.

She sat in a conference with the boss, the company’s owner, his secretary and the boss’ lawyer.  She was alone and on her own, unsure of what to do.  In the end, they convinced her to drop the charges and to sign some papers, all within a span of a few hours.  She never got compensated for anything and the boss who tried to take advantage of her never did apologize.  Humiliated and discouraged, she quit.

The point is, if things have to go through some form of process or investigation, it should be fair to all concerned.  You are the aggrieved party.  Being vulnerable and without any form of support like Norma did might result to you not having the justice you deserved.

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Comments»

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