What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is often misunderstood. For a long time, it was even considered too taboo to talk about and people would not even use the word.

We believe that this is not an excuse to ignore sexual harassment, or to pretend that it does not exist. More importantly, sexual harassment is a crime punishable by the Nigeria Penal Code.

Sexual harassment is:

Sexual harassment is defined as any form of unwelcome sexual advances or requests or sexual favors that are offensive, humiliating, or intimidating. It is also referred to as an act that violates the body, privacy, or feelings of the other person. The term “sexual harassment” encompasses many things, including:

  • Attempted or actual rape or sexual assault
  • Unwanted pressure for sexual favors, touching, leaning over, cornering, pinching, sexual looks or gestures, and other forms of unwanted sexual exchanges. 
  • Sexual teasing, comments, or jokes that are not asked for or wanted.
  • Catcalls, kissing sounds, smacking of lips, howling, etc.
  • Unwanted and forceful hugs, kisses, patting, stroking, or rubbing.
  • Making sexual gestures with hands or body movements.
  • Making inappropriate facial expressions
  • Deliberately exposing sensitive parts of the body to someone who never asked for it.

There are many more ways to describe sexual harassment and it can be verbal, non-verbal, or physical.

Other terminologies to be familiar with:

Sexism: this is a form of discrimination against a person’s gender. It is giving off an attitude that suggests that your sex is superior over the other sex, which is one of the reasons sexual harassment thrives today. Although it can affect any gender, it primarily affects women and girls. 

Sexual Assault: this is an act that involves one person intentionally touching another sexually and inappropriately without their consent. It is usually a coerced or a physically forced act.

Rape: Rape is a kind of sexual assault that involves sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual penetration, whether through the oral, anal, or vaginal route, without consent.

When Does Sexual Harassment Become Sexual Assault?

When sexual harassment begins to cause you pain, humiliation, fear, or intimidation, it can be referred to as sexual assault. It could include insistent pressure, abusive comments, false promises, or threats to coerce sex acts. 

Who Does it Affect?

Sexual harassment can happen to anyone regardless of race, age, and gender. It can also be done by anyone regardless of these same factors or whether they are strangers or close relatives.

Where Does it Happen?

There isn’t an exact place where sexual harassment occurs. A harasser would harass who they want to regardless of the place or time. It can happen in both public and private places, virtually or in real life, in secluded places with fewer people or in public amidst onlookers. 

How it Can Affect You

Sexual harassment can be a traumatic experience and while people tend to react differently, the most common ways include:

  • Debilitating stress reaction, including anxiety and depression
  • Headaches and sleep disorders following the disturbing episode
  • Loss of confidence and self-esteem
  • Withdrawal from social gatherings and events
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Feeling nauseated
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Reduced level of productivity and concentration

How Do You Intervene?

The goal is to contribute towards creating an environment where everyone can live and work freely without getting sexually harassed. You can intervene either as a victim of sexual harassment or as an observer who would like to do something about it. 

Here’s what to do if you find yourself in the victim position:

1. Talk to the offender

You must speak up and let the harasser know that you are uncomfortable with the act and it is unwanted. This especially applies if the harassment hasn’t gotten physical or gotten to the level of coercion. 

2. Be informed

Before you can take any action against sexual harassment, you need to understand what it means and the abiding laws on it in your region. Get familiar with the policies in your school or work environment and your state and also find out their procedures of handling reported cases.

3. Document everything

By documenting everything that has happened or is currently happening, you will have enough evidence to use against the offender. This should include details of what happened, when and where it happened, the names of people who know about it, and what you’ve done so far to stop it. You should also save evidence such as pictures, screenshots, phone call logs, social media comments, etc.

4. Tell someone

You can’t keep sexual harassment to yourself, as you will be hurting yourself even more. This is why You Should Be Heard is here to listen to your story and guide you on the next steps to take to ensure the harassment stops and the harasser is dealt with accordingly. 

Here’s what to do to play your part even if you’re not the victim:

1. Use any means comfortable to you

As long as it does not harm anyone or is against the law, you can stop any form of harassment you notice happening around you. Interrupt the harasser and let them know that such is unacceptable, whether it is to you or someone else.

2. Offer to help

Ask if the harassed person needs help and offer to help them as long as it is within your capacity. Offer to go with them to the police station to make a report or report to authorities if it’s within a work, school, or any structured environment.

3. Ask for help

You may not be able to do this on your own and would need all the help you can get. If you find it uncomfortable to walk to the harasser alone, ask for help from other bystanders that might also be observing. Also, if it’s an advanced case and you would like to report, you can reach out to people and organizations like You Should Be Heard involved in sexual harassment cases. This will give you all the boost and support you need to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to face the law.

4. Support others

If you see anyone trying to intervene in a sexual harassment case, join them and offer to lend your voice and whatever resources you have. This encourages the other person and reminds them that they are not alone. 

Why Does Intervening Matter?

Intervening in sexual harassment goes a long way, as it helps reduce the rate of the vulnerable getting harassed all the time. It encourages others to do the same should they ever encounter such in another setting. It is also a great way to constantly raise awareness about the subject. The more you intervene, the more you contribute to a saner society. 

Experienced sexual harassment, of any kind? Seen someone subjected to it? Heard someone make a joke to condone it?

Don’t keep it to yourself.

Report it HERE>>>>


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