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faqs for employees
I’m not sure if I have been sexually harassed - how can I know for sure?
Sexual harassment is any unwelcomed sexual behaviour that makes you feel uncomfortable, humiliated or intimidated. Therefore, one of the first signs that something is sexual harassment is if the behaviour leaves you feeling unsafe or uncomfortable or with the feeling that you are being bullied. Sexual harassment can take many forms, but some include if you have been subjected to unwanted physical contact, being asked for sexual favours, being told jokes or shown images of a sexual nature, or any other form of behaviour that falls under the umbrella of sexual behaviour.
This behaviour is usually based on being treated differently due to your gender, and often you can experience a sense of potential retaliation (especially in the workplace) for coming forward about the sexual harassment or protecting yourself from the sexual harassment. If you are still unsure it may be best to vocalise your experience and discuss it with someone you trust in order to understand it better and begin to process what happened.
I’ve recently experienced sexual harassment - what can I do?
If you have experienced sexual harassment, there are different options available to you, and the right option depends on what you feel comfortable with. One of the best things you can start by doing is writing a record or log of the sexual harassment incident, with the date, time, location, event, any evidence (photos, screenshots of conversations, etc.) name of the perpetrator, and other witnesses. This will help you have a record if you do decide to report. Speaking up about the incident to a friend or colleague might also help, as this can help you process your feelings and thoughts. You will also realise that many people experience sexual harassment. So just remember that you are not alone.
At Metta Space we do encourage targets of sexual harassment to report the incident, as sexual harassment can be categorised as a criminal act depending on your country’s legislation (check here for more information). Reporting will also help make your workplace a safer and less hostile environment in general. If your company does not yet have Metta Space, check what the system and procedure for reporting sexual harassment is. The Human Resources department oftentimes deals with cases of workplace misconduct, under which sexual harassment falls. Check below for more information if you want to report the case to a lawyer or to the police.
my mental health is deteriorating after an incident of sexual harassment - what can I do?
It is completely normal to feel off after an incident of sexual harassment. It is not uncommon to experience shock, loss of control, anxiety, fear, guilt, concern for the perpetrator, anger, isolation, post-traumatic stress disorder, and/or disruptions in your everyday life. These responses are normal responses to sexual harassment or any trauma, and it is important to be gentle, know that you are not at fault, do things that allow you to feel safe, and focus on your wellbeing. Despite there being no timeline or rule book for how to heal there are a few things that could be helpful. Talking about what happened with people you trust can help you understand it, frame it and accept it better.
Sexual harassment, unfortunately, is an experience many share, so it is also important to remind yourself you are not alone and can seek out support from forums or communities around you. If you are experiencing anxiety, stress, self-blame or feelings of being overwhelmed, mindfulness may be worth looking into, particularly compassion focused mindfulness (videos can be easily found online for free). Finally, remember to not minimise your own experience and to recognise the validity of your emotional responses.
I have just witnessed sexual harassment - what can I do to help?
As an onlooker it is tough to know if someone has experienced sexual harassment and what you should do about it. It is important not to take away the agency of the target of sexual harassment, so the best thing you can do is write a record of the sexual harassment incident, with the date, time, location, event, perpetrator, target and other witnesses noted down. You can speak to the target letting them know that you have this account, and would be happy to support them. It may also be worth pointing them to this site in order to have access to more information.
when is sexual harassment a crime?
The identification of sexual harassment as a crime differs depending on your country’s legal system. According to European Union regulations, sexual harassment is considered a crime when such acts are made with the purpose of violating the dignity of a person, by creating an intimidating, hostile, humiliating or offensive environment.
Th EU Directive 2002/73/EC states that harassment is a form of discrimination and that it is illegal. However, for further clarification you can check what your country’s legislation and legal definition of sexual harassment is here.
how can I involve a lawyer in my sexual harassment case?
To guarantee that you are being adequately assessed, you should seek out help from a law firm which specialises in sexual harassment cases. It is also important to ensure that you have the necessary evidence and a log of the details of what occurred (such as screenshots of conversations, E-mails to a colleague about the incident, self-logged time stamps, etc.). It will greatly help to have this prepared and collected before you meet with a lawyer.
At Metta Space we have partnered with law firms that we consider the best fit to deal with such cases. Find a list of them here.
I want to report my sexual harassment case to the police - what should be my next steps?
According to the EU Directive 2019/1937, your company should have put in place external channels to facilitate the reporting of misconduct in the workplace, including sexual harassment. They should also provide information regarding the necessary steps that need to be taken to externally report sexual harassment.
Whether this is the case or not, at Metta Space we strongly advocate that you seek out legal advice before taking any next steps, to guarantee that you are being assisted by a professional. Furthermore, gathering all the necessary evidence of the sexual harassment case (such as screenshots of conversations, E-mails to a colleague about the incident, self-logged time stamps, etc.) will greatly help with the creation and preparation of the report.
how can I report sexual harassment without evidence?
In the case of sexual harassment it is important that you try to keep a log of the incident, even if there is no physical proof. Messages or emails to your friends or colleages where you talk about the incident can be used as evidence of sexual harassment, so it is important that you do not delete any messages. Other things you could use as evidence include: communications from the harasser (emails, voicemails, text messages), your complaints and the company’s response, your personnel or employment file, testimony from witnesses, any photos or videos.
how can I ensure my sexual harassment case will remain anonymous?
At Metta Space we guarantee that the anonymity of the report is kept at all times. Therefore, using the Metta Space app will ensure that your reporting is kept anonymous throughout the whole process. If your company does not yet have Metta Space yet, and you wish to keep anonymity, you can do so by not revealing your name, or any other personal information when reporting the case.
According to the EU Directive 2019/1937, companies are required to set up reporting channels that ensure confidentiality whether the report was submitted anonymously or not.
my harasser was my supervisor/someone from HR - how should I report them?
Through Metta Space you will be able to report anyone anonymously, which would help in scenarios where the perpetrator was your supervisor, or the person you should be reporting to. If your company does not yet have Metta Space, we recommend trying to contact someone from Human Resources who is not the harasser. We would also suggest seeking out legal advice from a professional or a law firm to aid with the anonymous reporting.
is there a time limit on reporting sexual harassment?
According to the EU Directive 2019/1937, there should be no limitations as to the timing of the reporting of sexual harassment. Valid reports should include those made during the period of time in which a person is working at a company, during the hiring process, and after any legal relationship has ended. Reports are even allowed to be made after the person has left the company, if the report reflects the time in which the employee was still working in the company.
can sexual harassment happen outside of work or the office?
Yes, sexual harassment can happen outside a working environment, including in non-office settings, outside of working hours, or outside work-related communication platforms. This type of sexual harassment is just as legitimate as that which occurs in the office and during working hours. It should also be reported as sexual harassment.
Furthermore, remember that sexual harassment can be perpetrated by anyone in the workplace and can be directed against another employee, a group or even be part of their general behaviour. There does not need to be a specific relationship for certain behaviour to count toward sexual harassment.
what can I do if my company retaliates against me for reporting?
The EU Directive 2019/1937 prohibits companies from retaliating against people who report misconduct in the workplace, including Sexual Harassment. If your company does retaliate against you for reporting sexual harassment, you should involve a lawyer as this is illegal. We recommend law firms with whom we have partnered here.