1. How can I tell if someone is sexually harassing me? Am I just exaggerating?
The short answer is “No, you are not exaggerating!” The thought of exaggeration is a result of shame and guilt that many sexually harassed people may feel.
The definition of sexual harassment given by the law is “any unwanted sexual, non-verbal or physical sexual conduct which is intended to infringe upon the dignity of a person, in particular by creating intimidating, hostile, humiliating or degrading environment”. The word that has a special focus is “unwanted”. Lack of consent is the key to understanding whether a behavior is harassment or not.
Although it is difficult to describe all behaviors that are sexual harassment, some of the most common forms are: sending sexually explicit photographs; verbal harassment orally or through messages, phone calls, and notes; persistent glances at body parts, unwanted physical contact (hug, kiss, or caress); sexual comments about a person’s clothes, appearance, or body; threats or bribes for unwanted sexual intercourse or activity. Aside from the fact that all of these behaviors are offensive, they can be physically and emotionally dangerous. The common denominator is the absence of consent. So if you have not given your consent for a behavior and this behavior is sexual in nature, then what you are experiencing is sexual harassment. As a result, you may feel discomfort, intimidation, embarrassment, threat, or even shame about yourself and your body. Ideally, one should never experience such a thing. Unfortunately, statistics show that it occurs at rates of more than 60% for women and about 30% for men. In fact, at the ages of 11-22 the incidence increases dramatically. Sexual harassment is a dangerous and abusive behavior with a negative impact on the person experiencing it.
2. What can I do if someone sexually harasses me? Where could I refer to? I feel that no one will take me seriously.
One of the biggest fears faced by people who are sexually harassed is that no one will believe them and possibly they will be blamed for what happened. Unfortunately, this fear is realistic as the victim is often blamed for the way he or she dresses, speaks, walks, or behaves. The narrative that the person being harassed “did something wrong” or could have done something different to avoid the incidence is deeply offensive and embarrassing! On the one hand it incriminates the person who is being harassed and on the other it does not condemn the act or behavior of harassment which is – among other things – illegal! In addition, this narrative significantly distorts reality: sexual harassment does not have a “victim type”; it can happen to anyone, in any situation. The responsibility always lies with the perpetrator.
If you have been sexually harassed, the law protects you! Talk to a significant adult you trust, at school, in the family, or in extracurricular activities you participate in, to help you report the incident. If you do not want or are afraid of the complaint and its consequences, then it is important to take care of yourself by talking to someone who will listen to you, understand you, and not question your experience. In addition to your family and friends, one such example is the Helpline 80011 80015. and ouremail firstname.lastname@example.org Professional support can empower you emotionally and provide legal advice to you and your family.
3. How do I get rid of this awful feeling after such an event? Will I be able to have sex again without feeling threatened?
Sexual harassment is often followed by guilt, shame, disgust, sadness, melancholy, fear, insecurity, anxiety, nervousness, and loneliness. These feelings can convince you that you are to blame for what happened and lower your self-esteem. But this is not the truth.
The wound of harassment is different for each person. But throwing the blame on you is like throwing salt on the wound: no matter how big or small it is the salt makes it hurt. In order for it to begin to heal, you must first look at the wound and see where it is and what form it has: naming your feelings and what happened. Immediately after, you should attribute the responsibility to the one who harassed you. The shame should be all on him/her! Once the wound begins to heal, it is important to move on to the next stage of healing and talk people who will not judge you but will listen to you, understand you, and support/protect you. There are also support groups with people who have the same experience as you and if you start talking about it, you will realize that there are many who have gone through it. You are not the only one and you are not alone! Once you begin to feel empowered and regain your self-confidence and self-esteem, it means that your wound is healed.
For some time, depending on the size and depth of the wound, it may be more difficult for you to trust new sexual partners. It is important to listen and trust your body before proceeding. Sexual harassment is a painful and traumatic experience with serious consequences for the psycho emotional health of the person experiencing it. But human resilience allows us to recover and grow stronger! If we take care of our wounds with patience and care, the scars may go away completely. Even if they stay, they will not be painful anymore.
EXPERT GROUP «ALL ABOUT SEX»
- Charis Asvestis, Andrologist-Urologist
- Chrysoula Iliopoulou, MSW/MEd Psyhcotherapist, Clinical Sexologist
- Vasia Bouba, Psychologist MSc
- Athanassios Thirios, Adolescent Health MSc
- Efthalia Tzila, Child Psychiatrist MSc
- Artemis Tsitsika, Asoc. Professor of Pediatrics-Adolescent Health, University of Athens