In order to curb sexual harassment in the workplace, it is important to think about what it’s really about. The root of the issue, experts claim, is not a desire for an intimate relationship. In many cases, it is just about power.
It doesn’t matter who holds that power. Both men and women have been accused of harassment. In both cases, the end goal is often simply to impose one’s power over someone else. The harassment is a way to make the other person feel frightened, small and subordinate.
In some senses, this is similar to how bullies in grade school establish their power. To prop themselves up, they pick on easy targets. Parents often suggest standing up to a bully, because most of them do not have any recourse. Their actions are based on intimidation.
Sexual harassment can be used in the same way. A jealous co-worker may want to hold someone back who they see as a threat. A supervisor may want to show the other workers who is really in charge.
Power is also what makes many people feel confident in harassing others. A boss feels untouchable — like they can do anything without fear of getting fired. An employee, meanwhile, fears for their job, so declines to speak up about what’s going on in the workplace.
On both sides, power is involved. It can make sexual harassment a very complicated issue. Those who have been harassed need to know not only why it happens, but also how they can take legal steps to put an end to it.