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How Should I Deal with Sexual Harassment?

Most of us know that any unwanted sexual behaviour directed towards us by others such as uninvited touching, making comments of a sexual nature, suggestive messages or emails or sharing sexually explicit images or videos is known as sexual harassment. But sometimes the line between teasing, flirting and being sexually harassed can become blurred.

Sadly, sexual harassment will always be present somewhere in our lives so knowing how to deal with it and how to react to make it stop quickly, is an important skill to practice in all walks of our lives.

Tips on Dealing with Sexual Harassment

Always keep in mind that sexual harassment is immoral and illegal and should never be tolerated.

Many of us have been taught not to be rude to others so very often we tend to laugh off uncomfortable comments, sexual innuendos or the odd inappropriate touch. The problem with unintentionally participating in the act is that it sends the wrong message to the harasser who may think you enjoy their behaviour or that you are flirting with them.

Experts say that when victims ignore sexual harassment and don’t stand up to it, it often continues and even escalates.

Don’t participate or get involved in sexually charged conversations or laugh at jokes with sexual innuendo whether in real life or on social media platforms. It’s also in your best interest not to hang around or interact with people who enjoy a lot of attention from the opposite sex and encourage it, as then others will assume that you are open to and accepting of the same attention as well.

If the sexual harassment offence is the first encounter with someone, it is possible that they may be unaware of the implications of what they are saying or doing. Give them the benefit of the doubt by trying to first get a sense of their intent. Using body language and facial expressions make it known that you are not interested in their advances. Signalling your discomfit in their presence gives them a way to quietly withdraw without losing too much face.

If your first subtle attempt at deflection did not prove successful, it’s important to be ever more confident in standing up for yourself and sending a calm but clearer message to the person that their continuing lack of respect for your personal space or their sexually charged conversations are not acceptable to you and making you uncomfortable. You could say  “I don’t wish to participate in this conversation any longer” or “Please do not touch me”. If the harasser persists in testing the waters, remain firm, stand your ground and say it louder. Tell them to “Stop!” If necessary, report the harassment or tell someone you trust.

Resist the temptation to laugh things off that make you feel uncomfortable or respond with a smile. Instead use appropriate facial expressions, body language and strong words to demonstrate to your harasser and make it very clear as to what you will and will not tolerate.

If sexual harassment takes place over any social media platforms, apply the same confidence in telling the harasser that you are not interested in their advances or being in communication with them any longer and then use the blocking function to cut them off.

If a harasser ever threatens to harm you, walk away from the situation as quickly as possible and get help from others.

By taking confident charge from the very beginning of any sexual harassment incidents you experience, you vastly decrease the chances of it escalating into something more concerning and harder to deal with.

We understand the challenges of university life, and we also have tons of other great tips and advice to make your student life just that much easier. Visit us at www.capetownstudenthostels.co.za.