Simple Steps to Overcome 3 Types of Sexual and Verbal Harassment

Oct 01, 2021
women facing catcallers on street and verbal and non-verbal harassment at workplace by co-workers

Sexual and Verbal Harassment

Have you ever felt trapped by a co-worker, in a room, at your workplace while exiting?

Have you ever been yelled or shouted at by a person across the street? 

Have you ever been unwantedly touched?

Yes, these are some day-to-day harassment commonly faced by women at workplace or walking down a street. Reasons are many with sexual and racial discrimination topping the list. Sexual harassment can occur in a number ways and laws of protection are there since late 1980’s.

 Study shows 34% of women have been a victim of co-worker harassment, irrespective of race and job level.

Another form of harassment is verbal or catcalling. Most young women and girls experience catcalling as their first instance of sexual harassment. A survey report issued by APPG for UN Women reveals the following facts about harassment faced by women in public spaces:

Verbal harassment or catcalling is all about asserting power and control over someone. It has many side-effects. Women or girls feel degraded and disempowered. This may also restrict their movements, force them to re-route their daily travel course or stop using a particular street, they start believing they don’t belong to a certain community or worse, some may stop dressing in a way they do just to avoid catching attention.

Keeping all the above issues in mind we’ve broken down harassments into following 3 categories:

1.   Trapping

If you’re blocked in a room and unable to leave, it is considered a crime, a felony. The burning question arises: What can I do to get a person out of way if he’s blocking my way?

In such a case you need to ask yourself:

  • What's my training?
  • What's my size and strength?
  • What's the size and strength of the person blocking my way?
  • Do I believe my aggressor will carry out his threats?
  • Does that person carry a weapon?
  • Is the aggressor under any influence or mentally unstable?

Answers to these questions will help you make the most informed decision as to the best steps you can take that increase your chances of success to get to safety.

Some Exiting Safety Tips:

You must see the situation and context. If a person is trying to contain you against your will, the law says: reasonable and necessary force can be used to get out of the situation, BUT you need to assess the options available.

  • Do you have other exit doors?
  • Or is it a small room where your co-worker is stopping you?
  • Can you talk out without applying necessary force?

 2.   Verbal Harassment (Catcalling)

Similarly when you are walking down a street and people yell or shout at you, may be because of racial discrimination, assess:

  • Are they threatening you? And do you have a valid reason to believe they’ll do what they say? (if yes, then ESCALATE the concern!)
  • Are they calling you racial slurs?
  • Are they insulting your parents?
  • Are they just being vicious (and not threatening)

Possible Ways of Protection:

If someone is harassing you from afar, look for possibilities such as:

  • Can you distance yourself?
  • Can you record the statements said or take pictures?
  • Can you ask people around you for help and join you for support as witness?

As a victim you must be able to differentiate between when people just say mean words and when you actually believe they will come over and hurt you.

3.   Unwanted touching

Third scenario is when you are touched without your consent and made uncomfortable. If a person tries to grab or pull you at a bar or at a party or at a gym or for that matter any other public space, and constantly show their manliness, your first act of self-defense should be to use your voice and say ‘STOP’. As some people are very bad with personal space and need to be told loud and clear that ‘Hey this is my boundary and those are your limits!’ Many a times a co-worker or an acquaintance also misinterprets relations and crosses limits, so here verbal warnings should suffice.

However, when verbal warnings fail to stop the person and you know he isn’t listening to the words coming out of your mouth rather he continues to pull or grab you, then act as fast as you can! You know he has an ill-intent; you must use physical force to protect yourself.

Using Force:

This brings us to another burning question: ‘What level of force should be applied?”

This will vary from person to person. A teenager will react differently than a middle-aged woman.  Your reaction will depend upon your training, your age and experiences.

So the context of the situation is very important. It isn’t like one size fits all. Some people just push your boundaries to see how far they can take you while others misunderstand relations and stop the moment you warn them.

Verbal and sexual harassment have always been a bone of contention, therefore it is of utmost importance; necessary trainings should be taken by women to overcome sexual misconducts and gender or racial discrimination at workplace and public spaces.

Call 911 when you feel the problem is escalating. Do not ignore it, as it may be impossible to stop people from being vicious but such people and incidences must be documented.