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Sexual harassment myths: The reality of harassment

There are dozens of myths surrounding sexual harassment, but it is wise that people understand the reality. Sexual harassment can and does happen in workplaces. It doesn't only affect women, and it isn't as uncommon as some people may believe.

Here are three myths about sexual harassment you should understand. If you are sexually harassed on the job, understanding these facts can make it easier to recognize.

Myth: It's only sexual harassment if you're touched

False. It can be sexual harassment whether or not someone touches you. Sexual harassment doesn't always have a physical component. Sometimes, harassment is verbal. Making comments about someone's body or suggestions about sexual conduct could be perceived as harassment. Emails, text messages and digital communications may also include harassing messages.

Myth: Women are the only people who suffer from harassment

It's false that women are the only people who suffer from harassment. Men also suffer from harassment in the workplace. Anyone, regardless of gender, can harass someone or be a victim of harassment. Sexual harassment may take place between people of the same or different genders as well.

Myth: The behaviors have to occur multiple times before they're sexual harassment

This simply isn't true. A sufficiently egregious instance of harassment could be enough to file a claim against another party for sexual harassment. While it's a stronger case if you can show repeated sexual harassment, it's not necessarily a requirement.

Myth: Jokes aren't harassment

Many times, it's those who first joke who end up later harassing someone. In other cases, someone who makes a joke may not see the problem with his or her behavior but is still offending others and causing them to feel harassed. It's important for employers to address these instances quickly to rule out intended harassment and to nip any misconduct in the bud.

Myth: Only victims have a claim against those who are harassing them

This isn't true, either. Sometimes, those who witness harassment may also feel victimized and be in a position to file a claim against someone who is harassing them or others.

Sexual harassment doesn't have any place in a workplace. Those who struggle with it deserve to be heard and to know their rights. These myths make it hard for some to understand when they're truly victims of harassment, but by understanding the reality, you can know when you are and take steps to stop it before it seriously impacts you.

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