Q: Can’t I even open a door for a woman anymore?
A: You may
Q: Can’t I even invite a woman for a drink or a dinner and pay for it anymore?
A: You may, if she’s OK with that. Just ask her a simple question: “May I invite you?” If she says yes, then pay. If she says no, do not push it. Respect her decision.
Q: Are only women harassed?
A: No. Men may be harassed too. Both the victim and the harasser can be either a woman or a man, and the victim and harasser can be the same sex. And men, too, have a full right to object to harassment.
Q: Where is the boundary between innocent flirting and harassment?
A: If either person starts to feel uncomfortable. Flirting is a mutual behaviour in which both parties intentionally engage in getting closer to each other and it may have a sexual subtext. Its flirting if you both enjoy it.
Q: Is it sexual harassment if I invite a colleague on a date?
A: If your employer does not have a rule which explicitly forbids employees from dating, it will be best if you stick to the rule “one and done”. If you invite a colleague on a date and they express disinterest, do not ask again. Repeated asking may be considered harassment. One polite invitation will likely not be considered harassment.
Q: Why do respected and successful men harass women?
A: Sexual harassment is based on abusing a position of power. That is why it happens more often between people with different power statuses. Anyone may harass – older and younger, single and married, people with the same or different sex or ethnicity.
Q: Are the perpetrators always in a superior position to the victim?
A: No. Despite sexual harassment abusing a position of power, there are cases when the perpetrators are classmates or colleagues. There are also cases when the perpetrators are subordinate colleagues or it may happen from a client at work.
Q: Isn’t sexual harassment just magnified too much? Do we have to focus on it so much?
A: Sexual harassment is insulting, offensive, and humiliating. It may have serious consequences for its victims. On the contrary, the problem is that it remains underreported. It is a matter of gaining or abusing power and authority, gaining control over a person, and often even an open manifestation of aggression towards the victim. Just stick to the rule that when you see someone being uncomfortable, stop doing it.
Q: Doesn’t sexual harassment only happen to attractive people?
A: Sexual harassment is not about attractiveness or a sexual desire. The aim is to humiliate, insult, intimidate, or bully the other person regardless of their appearance.
Q: Some women dress and behave provocatively. Isn’t this literally asking for sexual harassment? They’re the ones dressing like that.
A: No. No one wants to be harassed. Moreover, studies show that clothing does not really matter. Women that dress more conservatively are harassed equally often. This finding suggests that this kind of violent behaviour is natural for men and it, in turn, lowers respect for the men themselves. If we try to excuse any violent behaviour by putting the responsibility on the victim, it insults men. Men are able to control themselves.
Q: Aren’t many sexual harassment accusations made up?
A: No. False accusations of sexual harassment rarely bring any benefits to the victim. Reporting sexual harassment can be an extremely difficult, unpleasant, and lengthy process, even assuming one is believed.
It is much more common that victims do not report sexual harassment because they have a well-founded fear of reactions or reprisals from their surroundings, or of possible consequences (increased harassment, poor grades at school, loss of work, preventing career advancement).
In Slovakia and in the rest of the world, there is still a culture of silence when it comes to cases of sexual harassment or violence against women. Women have a well-founded fear and apprehension towards talking about their experience, because we the public often react in disbelief, question the victim, or even accuse her that she was the one to be blamed, at least to “some extent”. However, harassment and violence are always the sole responsibility of the perpetrator, never the victim.