“I cannot count how many clients I have who refuse to identify themselves as victims of harassment because it is considered weak or undesirable to do so” said Georgina Calvert-Lee at the Clear Lines Festival last week.
According to Georgina, who provides legal representation to those who experience sexual harassment in the workplace, the many different forms sexual harassment can take makes it difficult for victims to identify. It is the perceived weakness of victims and complex nature of sexual harassment that bullies capitalise on to keep their victims silenced.
She continued to explain that while sexual harassment can be physical or verbal and can include grabbing or touching, it can also take on more subtle repeated behaviour that leaves victims with a bad taste in their mouth, a feeling of being unworthy or that they don’t belong. It can be difficult for victims to describe or acknowledge the way they are being treated and this can prevent them from reporting it.
A further complication for victims is that sexual harassment can often be part of a broader picture of sex or race discrimination. This behaviour creates a hostile environment and threatens the health, wellbeing and livelihood of the person involved.
Georgina concludes: “Sexual harassment at work is subtle, complex and sometimes difficult to admit. If your gut tells you there is something wrong, there probably is. Let it serve as a signal for you to discuss your experience with others - a friend, a family member or a lawyer. Once you identify it, once you have named it, it loses some of its power over your thoughts and feelings. That is both important and empowering.”
Georgina is Senior Litigation Counsel at McAllister Olivarius.