Some Myths and Facts about Sexual Harassment:

Myth: Women enjoy being sexually harassed.

Fact: Women do not enjoy being sexually harassed. It is usually a humiliating, painful and frightening experience.

Myth: Sexual harassment is harmless flirtation. Women who object have no sense of humour.

Fact: Behaviour that is unwelcome cannot be considered harmless or funny. Sexual harassment rarely involves flirtation or sincere sexual or social interest. It is defined by its impact on the harassed, and his or her work environment, and not the harasser.

Fact: This is a classic way of shifting the blame from the harasser to the harassed. Women have a right to act, dress and move around freely, without the threat of harassment.

Myth: Sexual harassment is normal behaviour. A woman should feel complimented.

Fact: Sexual harassment is not normal behaviour. It is a manifestation of power relations and a serious form of gender discrimination. It can have a devastating impact physically, emotionally and psychologically. Research shows that women are often forced to leave school or their jobs to avoid harassment.

Myth: Many women make up and report stories of harassment, to get back at their employers or others who have angered them.

Fact: Research shows that less than one percent complaints are false. Women rarely file complaints even when they are justified in doing so. Many women are afraid to report cases for fear of losing their jobs further harassment, being branded as loose woman and other repurcurssions.

Myth: Only men sexually harass women. Men are not sexually harassed.

Fact: Men may harass men, women harass women, and women harass men. However, the majority of cases involve men harassing women.

Myth: If you ignore sexual harassment, it will go away.

Fact: Sexual harassment would not simply go away if you ignore it. Research has shown that simply ignoring the behaviour is ineffective. Harassers generally will not stop of their own accord. When sexual harassment is ignored, it is often interpreted as a sign of approval or consent.

Myth: I will not be able to compliment someone without being accused of sexual harassment.

Fact: Compliments by themselves are generally not considered sexual harassment. But when in doubt, don’t. Remember sexual harassment is defined by its impact on the harassed and the environment, and not on the intent of the harasser.

From the handbook ‘Unwanted Attention – Sexual Harassment in Colleges in Mumbai’, Akshara, Mumbai. External Website that opens in a new window