Domestic violence is an evil that has plagued the Indian society for years. Wives and kids, and sometimes the husbands, have been its victims. However, most people prefer to remain silent about this issue, as if it never existed. What deters them is usually the shame and embarrassment, or the fear that their abuser will harm them more if their misdeed was exposed.
You’re sitting in your office catching up on your paperwork when one of your employees come in with a nervous expression on their face. You ask them to sit down, and after speaking with them for a moment, you find out that another employee may be sexually harassing them. This isn’t something that you like to hear.
You ensure them that you will do a complete investigation to get to the bottom of things. This is the right way to start in a situation like this, but you’re not sure where to go from there.
Victims have two strong weapons: a willingness to speak up loudly and firmly, and a willingness to disclose what is going on to those who can take action. Here are six ways to foil workplace sexual harassment and to hold perpetrators accountable.
1) Educate Yourself – Know your rights. Every company has an employee handbook that defines the procedure to follow if you feel you have been sexually harassed.
2) Stand Tall – Whenever someone by words or actions does something that makes you feel uncomfortable, draw yourself up, look them in the eye and say in a firm voice (louder than you would normally speak): “Please don’t do that. I don’t like it.” If they laugh or say something like “I was only joking,” say directly, “It’s not funny to me. Stop. I don’t like it.” Your distress should be made crystal clear.
3) Honor Your Feelings – Don’t assume that you are overreacting or being oversensitive. Stand firmly behind your convictions. Many people find this difficult because they want to be liked by everybody. If a person who makes you uncomfortable does not like you, so what? Your happiness and well being are far more important than being liked by unlikeable individuals.
4) Show and Tell -A co-worker may do something that could be innocuous, but it still makes you uncomfortable. For example, if a co-worker suggests you get together for a drink after work and you prefer not to, you can respond by saying: “What a great idea, I think we should all go out together; let me see what Mary and Tom are doing later.” This kind of response diffuses a potentially private and unwanted intimate encounter and makes it into an innocent social event. if the individual really wants to have some company to wind down after work, including other people will be fine. If the person wants to get you in a potentially sexual setting, they will be put off by the public nature of the situation.
5) Keep the Baby, Throw Out the Bath Water – Sometimes a situation is ambiguous. For example, a boss may want to talk to you about a promotion, but suggests meeting after hours to do so. You are uncomfortable with meeting after work, but most certainly want to discuss a possible promotion. Rather than dismissing the entire situation as unwanted, keep what is worthwhile and appropriate, in this case, discussing the promotion and changing what is inappropriate, the after-hours meeting: “Yes, I’m very interested in discussing a promotion, and I’m available anytime between 9:00 and 5:00 here at the office.” Your boss will either get the hint and respect your preferences, or will not, in which case the situation is no longer ambiguous.
6) Document and Report – It is in your best interest to report any incident of sexual harassment immediately. If you are not sure if something constitutes sexual harassment, on the side of caution — report it. Write a brief description of what happened, by and to whom, name of witnesses if any, where the harassment took place, the date and the time. Whenever you report inappropriate behavior, do so in writing even if written documentation is not required by company policy. Keep a copy of the complaint for yourself.
You have the right to work in a sexual harassment-free environment. Respect that right and use the above techniques to help others respect it as well.
If you want to help someone who is a victim of abuse, then try familiarizing him or her with the challenges posed by the issue. These can be emotional, safety, legal, economic and social challenges that the victim might face in the future. If you are wondering what you can do to stop abuse around you, then you can try the following:
1. Understand: Talk to the person who you think is being abused, but make sure that the abuser is not around. Approach them in a non-blaming, non-judgmental and understanding way and let them know that they are not alone.You can say things like “I’m worried about you and your safety” or “This is not how things should be”. If the person is not responding the way you expect them to, then wait for a few days or weeks before you bring the issue up again.
2. Help Out: Let them know that you will help them, and don’t push your point of view or belief onto them.
3. Support: Be a good listener and use supportive language. Such cases are quite sensitive to be tackled with harsh words.
4. Don’t Judge: Don’t say anything bad about their abuser. Don’t make the victim feel that they are to be blamed for the situation that they are in.
5. Don’t Demoralize: Don’t depress the victim further by saying things like “I would leave the relationship if I was in your situation.” You aren’t in their situation, but they are. So understand they may have their own reasons which you can’t judge from a distance.
6. Show Them Hope: Remind the victim that they deserve to be happy and healthy in their relationship, and no one should treat them in a hurtful manner. Let them know that domestic violence is a punishable crime.
7. Look for Help: If you think that the situation is going out of hand, make a point to contact your local domestic violence agency for help.
8.Give Out Information: Provide the person with resource information like the number of a domestic violence hotline or agency, or simply put them in touch with someone you think can be of help.
9.Win Trust: Be someone who is supportive of them and is always there to help them.
So if you think that someone you know or you yourself are a victim of abuse, then raise your voice before things go out of hand. Any sort of violence, even violence against children is not acceptable. Stop violence in childhood and don’t let any childhood get scarred.
What do you think? Share your thoughts and suggestions in the comment section below.