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20 Myths & Misconceptions About Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment has moved to the forefront of the conversation. Yet, there is still much misinformation about what sexual harassment is.

Below is a list of sexual harassment myths and misconceptions.

MYTH #1: SEXUAL HARASSMENT IS A WOMAN’S ISSUE

Men aren’t immune. Sexual harassment affects men, including gay and bisexual men.

MYTH #2: HARASSMENT REQUIRES TOUCHING

Harassment comes in many forms, in addition to physical. The harassment can be verbal, such as requests for sexual favors and other unwelcomed comments based on gender.

MYTH #3: SEXUAL HARASSMENT ONLY OCCURS BETWEEN MEMBERS OF THE OPPOSITE SEX

Sexual harassment doesn’t look to the gender of the harasser, only to the conduct. The victim and the harasser can be female, male, or of the same gender.

MYTH #4: JOKES CAN’T BE SEXUAL HARASSMENT

If comments or conduct are offensive to some, it may be considered sexual harassment, even if it was meant to be a joke.

MYTH #5: IT ONLY HAPPENED ONCE, SO IT CAN’T BE HARASSMENT

An isolated incident can constitute harassment if severe, created a hostile or offensive environment, or resulted in an adverse employment decision.

MYTH #6: THE OFFENSIVE COMMENTS AREN’T ABOUT ME SPECIFICALLY, SO IT CAN’T BE SEXUAL HARASSMENT

It is illegal to harass a person by making offensive comments about women or men in general.

MYTH #7: FOR WORKPLACE SEXUAL HARASSMENT, THE HARASSER MUST BE A SUPERVISOR

The harasser doesn’t have to be the victim’s supervisor, although it can be. It can also be a supervisor in another department, a co-worker, and even a client or customer.

MYTH #8: ONLY THE PERSON DIRECTLY HARASSED IS THE VICTIM

Third parties who witness the harassment can also be victims of the harassment.

MYTH #9: SEXUAL HARASSMENT IS A MATTER OF FLIRTING

While there are instances where harassment is flirting gone awry, it’s primarily a demeaning or offensive attitude based on gender.

MYTH #10: SEXUAL HARASSMENT ISN’T A BIG DEAL

Sexist comments and crude jokes are a big deal. It can create a hostile work environment and cause people to feel unsafe. Plus, it is against the law.

MYTH #11: IF I IGNORE HARASSMENT, IT WILL STOP

Many victims worry that ignoring harassment is a better option than reporting it. However, ignoring the problem never makes the harassment stop.

MYTH #12: HARASSMENT IS NEVER NON-VERBAL

Harassment can also be non-verbal, such as hanging obscene photographs, pictures, and other unwelcomed non-verbal conduct.

MYTH #13: IT’S TOO EASY TO ALLEGE SEXUAL HARASSMENT

There is no evidence to support this. A victim must file a formal complaint, which requires them to retell and relive the experience. Victims also face disbelief, retaliation, and reputation reprisals.

MYTH #14: HARASSMENT IS ONLY ABOUT SEXUAL COMMENTS

Harassment doesn’t have to be of a sexual nature. It can include comments based on a person’s gender.

MYTH #15: HARASSMENT DOESN’T HAPPEN IN MY FIELD

Sexual harassment can happen in any workplace environment.

MYTH #16: SEXUAL HARASSMENT IS A TOP-DOWN PROBLEM

Sexual harassment can happen between peers as well as those having authority.

MYTH #17: PEOPLE INVITE SEXUAL HARASSMENT BY BEHAVIOR

Most times, harassment is about power and creating an environment to make others feel less than.

MYTH #18: IT’S NOT SEXUAL HARASSMENT IF IT HAPPENS AT A WORKPLACE HAPPY HOUR

Sexual harassment can occur after hours. Location doesn't matter.

MYTH #19: SEXUAL HARASSMENT IS RARE

Sexual harassment is not rare; it is unfortunately, still very common. However, it is underreported.

MYTH #20: SPEAKING TO A LAWYER MEANS YOU MUST REPORT SEXUAL HARASSMENT

If you were subjected to sexual harassment, you should speak to a sexual harassment lawyer at the Law Offices of Jeremy Pasternak to ensure that your rights are protected. It doesn't mean you have to take action, but it's important to understand your rights under the California employment law.

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