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What do you do when you are being sexually assaulted in your workplace?

Updated: May 10, 2022

Picture this, you're almost at the end of your 3-year contract at your dream position in a company and life is good. Slowly you begin to notice one of your colleagues making comments about your body being "sexy".

Gradually it moves to them touching your body inappropriately and trying to kiss you despite your several rejections. You want to bring it up a couple of times to tell them you're uncomfortable but you are afraid the sensitivity of the situation can implicate your contract renewal and leave you without a job.

They can spread rumours about you being aggressive and threatening to assault them to your other colleagues and boss. Soon, your once happy place becomes sad and miserable. You can only persevere as they continue to harass you in fear of your character being misconstrued. Crazy story, right?

While sexual abuse is not a fun topic to talk about, it cannot be avoided! You may have found yourself in a similar scenario of inappropriate touching like the one above. If so, you're not alone. At least 45 per cent of the workforce experience sexual abuse every year and more than half of them are women. Maybe your case is different and you’re wondering " how's this sexual abuse when this person is just making me uncomfortable?".

Well, Sexual Abuse isn't always "male boss tried to take advantage of the female employee for a promotion". Sexual abuse is defined as any unwanted sexual activity, with perpetrators using force, making threats, or taking advantage of victims not able to give consent.

It is important to know that sexual harassment/ abuse can arise from so many scenarios. And when it happens, you need to know how to handle the situation while prioritising your mental health.

Here are tips to handle Sexual abuse in the workplace

1. Firmly tell them to Stop:

You need to begin by vocalizing how uncomfortable that person's actions or words make you feel.Your assaulter must be called out in every wrong scenario so they do not misconstrue your lack of rebuttal as consent. Ensure you do this in a straight, clear, and forward manner.

This might have to be repeated, but it is the first step in stating you feel wronged to allow you to process your feelings and take control of your narrative

2. Find support:

It's easy to feel alone when you don't have people who can understand what you're going through. Without support, your mental health can be greatly affected as you try to process why and how to deal with what is happening to you when you don't have someone to feel safe with.

While most people do not feel comfortable sharing their assault stories, you must take the time to open up to others for support.

3. Prioritize your mental health:

It's easy to get lost in the heat of the moment especially when sexual assault is involved. Overcoming such a traumatic scenario can take time so remember to prioritize your mental health by talking to friends, family, and especially professionals, taking time out for yourself, or just even putting some distance between you and the harasser.

4. Keep Evidence and report the matter:

You deserve justice! And that goes beyond being compensated but prevents scenarios like this from occurring in the future for you and others. While this is not an easy step, always remember to have evidence to back up your claims when you do decide to take it up legally to the appropriate authority. Imagine if your harasser had been called out before, perhaps they would have stopped their actions immediately.

As a mental health organization, we understand the complexity of the human mind when it comes to situations as sensitive as sexual assault. If you feel like you or your loved one has been or currently is being sexually assaulted at your workplace, you can reach out to EmpathySpace to book a one-on-one conversation with a mental health professional for guidance and resources.

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