1. Indicate CLEARLY that you are uncomfortable with the behaviour
Say NO effectively and emphatically. It is more important to be firm than polite. If you are more comfortable not speaking to the perpetrator face to face, send an SMS or email. This message and the perpetrator’s reply may also be used as evidence.
2. Collect evidence
Start a log and note down dates, times, places and who was present at the time of the incidents and give detailed accounts of the unwelcomed sexual behaviour. Keep any email or SMS correspondence with the harasser as evidence. Taped evidence is also useful.
3. Keep your evidence in a safe place
Don’t put them on your work computer, in a desk drawer or somewhere where your employer can take them. Instead, keep them in a purse or briefcase or write them on your home computer. If you’re fired, you’ll be prevented from taking your notes from your work computer and they may be conveniently “lost.”
4. Confide in someone trusthworthy
Alert or inform someone whom you trust at the workplace of the harassment. Talk to friends or family members that you trust about the incident. Even if they were not present at the harassment scene, they may be able to support your case as witnesses.
5. Try to not be alone with your harasser
Avoid after work functions with the harasser. If you have no other co-workers apart from the harasser and would inevitably have to be alone with the harasser in the office, consider having a recording device handy that you can discreetly turn on. In the cases of team events, try to make sure that you have at least one colleague that you trust around, so that he or she can be your witness, if necessary.
6. Consult your HR department
Give them a chance to help you resolve the situation. If possible, provide them with some concrete evidence of harassment. This could include written evidence or a witness. In this way, the company is deemed to have notice of this incident and has a legal obligation to act. If you are planning to resign and want some action to be taken against the perpetrator, it is better to report the incident before you resign.
7. Don't be timid
Ignoring the harassment will just fuel the perpetrator’s ego. If you find it hard to be assertive to the perpetrator, it might help for you to think about an appropriate assertive response, visualise how you can say this, practise doing this in front of a mirror or a trusted buddy.
8. Find a lawyer
Contacting an employment lawyer in your vicinity to see if you can get someone who understands sexual harassment. It is frequently your word against the harasser’s, so you’ll want someone to bolster your case. Remember to request that the lawyer set out in writing their policy on charging and an estimate of the fees.
9. Seek counselling
Call AWARE’s Helpline at 1800 777-5555 for advice if your situation is getting out of hand. It is important for victims of sexual harassment to process their feelings about their experience. Sexual harassment can be traumatic and may give rise to long term adverse psychological effects.
10. Always, always report incidences of sexual harassment
Sometimes a sexual harasser will work on your head and make you feel like nobody would believe you. Don’t be swayed! If you don’t report sexual harassment, there will be other victims and the behaviour will get worse. Stand up for your right to a safe workplace. Your employer has a duty to keep your workplace free of sexual harassment. It’s the law.
(Text by Theresa Tan, The Straits Times / Additional reporting by Natalya Molok)