What To Do When You Can Say #MeToo: A Guide to Discussing Sexual Harassment/Assault (Part 1)

29 Nov 2017 4:06 PM | Jessica Sobhraj (Administrator)

What To Do When You Can Say #MeToo: A Guide to Discussing Sexual Harassment/Assault  (Part 1)

By Jessica Sobhraj (Jessica@womeninmusic.org)

This is the first in a two-part series by Women in Music about sexual harassment and assault. The first part provides practical resources, tips, and clear action steps that you can take now if you are experiencing sexual harassment or assault. For the second part of this series, Women in Music, alongside trained therapists, will host an online event open to the public that will address the mental health-related issues by examining real experiences - your stories. To share your story anonymously for potential inclusion in the event, please email us at MyStory@womeninmusic.org.

If you’ve been following the #MeToo movement, you are aware that sexual harassment and assault are horrific realities that virtually every woman faces. If you are a woman, you may have known this all along, from your and your friends’ personal experiences. Statistically speaking, 1 in 3 women have experienced sexual harassment at work and 71% of incidents go unreported. Every 98 seconds, another person experiences sexual assault.

Women in Music represents over 4000 women across 12 chapters and has hosted discussions on this and many other issues we face worldwide. What we’ve learned is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to handling sexual harassment or assault. Each woman has her own unique set of circumstances and level of comfort when discussing her unique experiences. As a community, it is our duty to support each other however best we can. Whether you work in a company, operate on your own, or are a bystander, we hope that you will find something helpful here.

What Is It?

Sexual harassment and assault can take many forms. Here are just a few examples:

  • Demeaning or condescending communications.

  • Suggestive or direct communications (text, emails).

  • Inappropriate requests, such as the use of sexual favors as currency.

  • Raises, promotions or other benefits that are directly linked to your engagement in inappropriate relationships or contact.

  • Threats to your position or employment that are directly linked to your engagement in inappropriate relationships or contact.                    

  • Inappropriate, unwelcome, forced, and non-consensual touching or sexual contact.

What You Can Do:

As a general rule of thumb, if you feel uncomfortable, whatever behavior is causing that feeling is probably not ok. Here are a few suggestions of things you can do right away:

If you are experiencing it:

  • Call out the behavior.

    • Be firm and specifically state which behavior was inappropriate.

    • Do not apologize for “bringing it up,” “making things weird,” etc. At the very least you are educating that person and more importantly, you are making it clear that the behavior has to stop.  

  • Document everything:

    • Save emails, text messages, notes, screenshots, and document each interaction. This will be critical information if you need to take further action.

    • Forward the documentation to a confidante for safe keeping.

    • Utilize the documentation guides by Better Brave - these guides will help you to communicate your thoughts clearly around incidents if you need to report them.

  • Know your state or region’s policies:

    • The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission provides a resource center for victims of sexual harassment including policies and guidance.

    • RAINN , an organization that specifically helps victims of sexual assault, provides an overview of each state’s local statute of limitations.

  • Speak to someone:

  • File a complaint:

    • Escalate complaints to the authorities, especially if you feel like you may be in danger.

    • If employed, file a complaint with your Human Resources department.

    • File a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or your state’s local agency

      • If filing with the EEOC, you should do so within 180 days of the incident.

If you have witnessed it:

  • If you see it happening, take a stand:

    • If you witness something you believe to be harassment or assault, immediately express to that person that their behavior was inappropriate and made you uncomfortable. It’s on all of us to ensure that the behavior stops. Not taking a stand can reflect poorly on your reputation too.

  • Respect the victim’s comfort level:

    • These experiences and stories are unique to each person. The way someone confronts these issues should be in a manner that they feel comfortable doing so. Be supportive and avoid pressuring others to publicly name accusers or tell their story if they do not want to.

If you are an employer or work in human resources:

This is the first part in our ongoing series on this topic that we will continuously build on. If you have questions, comments, or other resources you would like to see listed here, please reach out to us!

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