Sexual Abuse in the Workplace

What is sexual abuse/harassment?
Many sources define sexual abuse as repeated and unwanted sex-oriented remarks, behaviours or gestures that attack an individual’s dignity and security and their physical and psychological integrity. In the workplace, sexual abuse may be accompanied by blackmail and abuse of power that could compromise employment.
Sexual abuse may be overt or subtle. It comprises some or all of the following:

  1. Relationship between aggressor and victim
  2. Repeated abuse: harassment
  3. Attack on personal dignity and security
  4. Work environment deterioration
  5. Employment in jeopardy
  6. What are the various forms of sexual abuse?
  7. The main forms of sexual abuse in the workplace are: sexual harassment, sexism, homophobia, sexual assault or rape.

What are the signs of sexual abuse?
The following are examples of the remarks, behaviors or gestures that constitute sexual abuse.

  • Allusions to sexual preferences
  • Blackmail / threats
  • Comments on appearance/body
  • Indecent proposals
  • Intimate references
  • Obscene language
  • Sexual innuendoes
  • Unsolicited advances
  • Unwanted advances
  • Caresses
  • Indiscrete glances
  • Intimate relations
  • Kissing
  • Obscene gestures
  • Pinching
  • Sexual stimulation
  • Denying employee benefits to a person who has not responded to sexual advances.
  • Dismissing or firing a person who refused sexual advances.
  • Forcing a person to show off cleavage, to undress.
  • Forcing a person to wear a “sexy” outfit.
  • Getting too close physically while working.
  • Insistently recounting personal sexual experiences.
  • Raping a person by physical force or by threatening blackmail.
  • Showing, displaying degrading sexual images or obscene materials.

Where can sexual harassment take place?

Sexual harassment can occur in the workplace or learning environment, like a school or university. It can happen in many different scenarios, including after-hours conversations, exchanges in the hallways, and non-office settings of employees or peers.

Where can I learn more about sexual harassment/ abuse in the workplace? 

Visit the EEOC to learn more about sexual harassment laws. If you are a minor, you can learn more at Youth at Work, EEOC’s website for youth in the workforce.