The #metoo campaign has made sexual harassment visible. Now it is time to look at what can be done about the issue itself. While it is important to change the structures and attitudes, hereby we propose concrete guidelines for ways in which anyone can take action.
These guidelines concern everyday sexual harassment and other harassment – not sexual violence and abuse.
(For sexual violence and abuse, there are professional guidelines to follow. For a victim of violence, the first thing is to go to see a doctor.)
If you are being treated inappropriately
- Calm down. Your feelings are legitimate and well-founded, but an emotional reaction can exacerbate the situation. Whenever possible, explain calmly that the behavior which you are experiencing is not comfortable or appropriate.
- If you find the situation risky or threatening, try to escape.
- If you have to face the harasser repeatedly, e.g. at work, consider obtaining proof of their conduct. Modern technology provides opportunities for audio and video recording.
- Using humor towards the harasser is not always advisable. Even though many harassers consider themselves funny, usually they do not understand humor.
- Talk about your experience. Share it at least with a friend.
- If the harassment occurs at work, there are people to contact at your workplace.
Sexual harassment is discrimination under the Gender Equality Directive. The employer is responsible for ensuring a harassment-free working environment. However, the employer cannot correct any errors if they are not aware of them. A confidential reporting system should be available within your organization.
- If gender equality is not adequately addressed at your workplace, you can also discuss your experience confidentially with health care professionals. If connected to the employer, they can raise the issue, also without mentioning names if preferred.
- Could you find someone else to rely on within your community? E.g. the superior of the harasser or a colleague whose discretion you can trust? You are not responsible for reporting. The employer is responsible for a safe workplace and the harassers for their actions.
If you are a superior or otherwise influential
- Acknowledge your position of power.
- Never belittle anyone’s feelings. Your careless attitude can be extremely detrimental to the wellbeing of the harassed person.
- Never blame the victim for how they have reacted to the experience, e.g. if they have failed to report it.
- Talk with the abuser. If the victim needs confidentiality, you can raise general issues with the harasser, e.g. concerning the atmosphere at the workplace and the code of conduct, instead of a specific case.
- As a representative of the employer, it may be your duty to take action against the harasser. Contact the human resources department.
- As a bystander, consider what you could do to combat harassment. Your intervention may be crucial. Perhaps you are able to talk to the abuser.
- Pay attention to how your female colleagues are treated. If women are interrupted or spoken over, please highlight it to others. If you find that a proposal made by a woman is ignored or referred to as an idea of a male colleague, correct the error. See point 22.
If you are the Prime Minister, MP or other politician
- Make a public statement to combat sexual harassment, violence against women and discrimination against women.
- Declare that you are a feminist or a pro-feminist.
- Propose an amendment to the Penal Code, defining rape by the lack of consent (contrary to the current definition, according to which the use of force is a necessary characteristic to constitute a rape crime).
- Make an initiative requiring that also workplaces with less than 30 employees should have a gender equality plan.
- Propose that recurrent verbal abuse, which is derogatory due to its sexist nature, ought to be included in the Penal Code under sexual harassment.
If you have less political influence than the above
- Find out whether your workplace has an equality plan and how it instructs responding to sexual harassment.
- Pay attention to sexism. For instance:
a. Do not interrupt a woman’s speech.
b. Learn to tag #allmalepanels.
c. Learn how to appeal against sexist advertising to the Council of Ethics in Advertising.
d. Learn to say: “Shouldn’t this team have a 40 percent female representation / at least one woman?”
e. Always propose a woman to a working group or a post. (If you have a male best candidate in mind, propose him plus one competent woman.)
f. Remember that work and hobbies must be organized in a manner which enables also colleagues with families to participate.
The options are plenty! Find your way to prevent harassment!
You may think that only somewhat privileged individuals can follow these guidelines. You are right. Therefore, it is vital for everyone to act within their remit – together our efforts can make a difference!