GILLIAN (not real name) sits quietly in a corner of one of the most expensive hotels, her eyes darting back and forth uneasily in case someone she knew spotted her there.
The time was 20:00 hours and she was hurt and annoyed with herself for not challenging the idea of her being in that place at such an awkward hour.
Earlier on during the day, Gillian’s boss Stan just walked over to her at the office and while squeezing her shoulder, he said, ‘Come for super with me today at Cocoa Restaurant (not real name).’
Unfortunately, it was not a request; it was a command.
She knew that ‘request’ was not right but she convinced herself that it was not worth worrying about until she arrived at the restaurant where a table for two had been reserved for ‘them,’ which was arranged for a couple on a romantic date.
Gillian is not alone in this scenario where many working women, who are bullied and sexually harassed by their superiors, often find themselves in.
But most rarely challenge their superiors for the fear of losing their jobs.
Unfortunately, whether women have partners or husbands, their abusive ‘bosses’ continue to sexually harass them and demand for sexual favours from them.
Sexual harassment in work places is very common, and apart from bosses, sometimes it is the co-workers who make unwelcome or inappropriate advances towards the female members of staff.
According to research, sexual harassment goes widely unreported and many women end up blaming themselves for such occurrences.
The women are said to blame themselves for ‘flirting’ with their abusers without even realizing and sometimes, they blame themselves for the clothes they were as being the reason they get sexually harassed.
“I would become outright hostile at work – blatant insults, pointed greetings to everyone in the office but him, barely acknowledging his attempts at casual conversation. Whatever I could do short of actually turning him in. But it’s what happened outside the office that scared me most,” one woman said.
Whilst men can also be subject to sexual harassment, the vast majority of cases have been by women against men.
It is estimated that 50 per cent of women in employment are, or have been, subject to sexual harassment of some form or other.
It does not just happen to women who work in large offices or those who work within a predominantly male working environment; it can happen to people in any occupation, to any age group and from every community.
It can take place in many forms, which can broadly be categorised in three groups, such as verbal, and this includes comments about appearance, body or clothes; indecent remarks, questions or comments about one’s sex life, requests for sexual favours, sexual demands made by someone of the opposite sex, or even one’s own sex and promises or threats concerning a person’s employment conditions in return for sexual favours
Others could be looking or staring at a person’s body and display of sexually explicit material such as calendars, pin ups or magazines
There is also physically touching, pinching, hugging, caressing, kissing, sexual assault and rape.
Sexual harassment at work threatens one’s confidence and self-esteem.
It can stop them from working effectively, undermine their dignity and it can affect one’s health and happiness.
Nobody should be subjected to it as the law protects everyone.
Some stories of the rampant sexual harassment at places of work are heartbreaking.
There are usually complaints about sexually demeaning comments, inappropriate behaviour and sexual assault by some superiors.
Both men and women experience sexual harassment at work places.
World over, this vice happens to even the most educated people, including lawyers, engineers, construction workers, waitresses and doctors and even people in the human resources department.
With the coming of social media, the trend is now on the increase, with bosses or co-workers making advances to their juniors or co-workers respectively.
One woman narrated how her superior would always stand in front of her and block the door.
Each time she wanted to pass, he would make sure he had physical contact with her no matter how hard she tried to avoid it or asked him to leave her alone.
“I always look forward to taking you to my home and ‘violate’ you,” the man would always say.
It is necessary to note that such comments, including those that praise someone’s body, bring shame and embarrassment to the womenfolk and should never be entertained as they border on sexual harassment.
Many employees, especially women, have had to leave their jobs because of sexual harassment.
Some of them are locked in their bosses’ offices and later asked to start relationships with the bosses.
Unfortunately, many such bosses are very old, with some being twice as old as the women and men they make advances to and this brings a lot of shame to the victims.
Some women are requested to remain behind after working hours for overtime work, only to be sexually harassed by their bosses or co-workers.
Such actions happen regardless of the co-workers or bosses being married.
If such harassment is left unchecked, it has the potential to contribute to Gender Based Violence, (GBV).
Unfortunately, sexual harassment is also rife in schools, colleges and universities.
Unsolicited kissing and romantic messages are the order of the day in some of these institutions.
Such experiences leave women and men who are victims living in fear, disgust and shame.
Even in hospitals and media houses, sexual harassment among co-workers and superiors is there.
Co-workers and sometimes bosses sneak up on each other to flirt by, among other things, sneaking up and pinching or slapping someone’s bottom.
Such experiences, especially, among the new employees, are usually uncomfortable and embarrassing.
Some of these people who engage in sexual harassment at work places use lifts or elevators to launch their advances, including kissing their victims.
They always find a way of touching their victims.
They also use sexual innuendos in emails, SMS and WhatsApp messages to sexually harass their victims.
However, many of the victims do not report these cases because they are scared of losing their jobs.
“As for me, my boss always talks about my big boobs and how comfortable I am moving around with them. One day, he actually grabbed one of them and this made me very uncomfortable.
When I confronted him, he begged me never to tell anyone about it,” one woman said.
She said she resorted never to be found alone with her boss to avoid such experiences.
Some of the co-workers and bosses use beer as an excuse to sexually harass their victims at offices.
“They will call you more than 10 times and send many sexual messages and when confronted, they explain that they were drunk,” another woman said.
Sexual harassment at work can have very serious consequences both for the victims and the perpetrators.
According to psychologists, a sexually harassed woman or man may lose their job or the chance of a promotion if she refuses to give in to the sexual demands of someone in authority.
Additionally, unwelcome sexual conduct of co-workers makes the working conditions hostile and unpleasant – putting indirect pressure on the victims to quit their jobs.
Sometimes, the employee is so traumatized by the sexual harassment that she suffers serious emotional and physical consequences and this may affect their work.
The effect on the morale of all employees can also be serious because even the employees not involved in the harassment can find their work disrupted by the incidences of sexual harassment. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org.