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Beware of these sexual harassment myths

One reason that sexual harassment is still common in the workplace is that people do not always fully understand what it is or how it works. A lot of myths tend to prevail and people may not understand how serious their actions are.

It is important for employees who are being harassed to know what these myths are and to understand that they are just that: myths.

Even if the harasser insists that he or she has done nothing wrong, that may not actually be the case. Below are a few myths to keep in mind:

Myth No. 1: It's not harassment if it's "just a joke"

This is one of the most common excuses that people use. They claim that they were "just joking" and act like that should absolve them of any guilt. That's not how it works.

In reality, no matter what the person's intentions were, harassment is harassment. In fact, sexual jokes are one of the top forms of harassment in the workplace. Do not let someone convince you that you're just taking things too seriously.

Myth No. 2: Victims could end harassment if they wanted to

People tend to blame victims for not stopping harassment, implying that they do not really care or perhaps even like the behavior. If they really wanted to, these people claim, the victims could just put an end to the whole thing. In reality, victims often feel very powerless. They fear they will lose their jobs. They fear retaliation. They don't hold the power and the harasser does. There are countless reasons why victims can't stop harassment. Others should never tell them it is somehow their own fault.

Myth No. 3: Some people ask for it

Harassers often claim that the victim "sent signals" or otherwise asked for the treatment. A boss who sexually harasses an attractive secretary says that the way the secretary dressed made it clear what type of treatment they wanted, for instance. The harasser may also take normal office behavior -- saying good-bye at the end of the day, for instance -- and say that the other person was flirting with them and asking for more.

This is just an excuse. No matter how you dress or act in the workplace, you never deserve to get harassed.

My No. 4: Men never get sexually harassed

People often assume that men sexually harass women in the workplace, and it is the only way it happens. The reality is that anyone can harass anyone else. Both men and women are victims. Both men and women are harassers. And all cases must be taken seriously. Those who suffer harassment need to know their legal rights.

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