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Understanding Verbal Sexual Harassment: Impact on Workers and Importance of Addressing It

Understanding Verbal Sexual Harassment: Impact on Workers and Importance of Addressing It

Can Sexual Harassment be Verbal?

In today’s workplaces, fostering a respectful and inclusive environment is crucial for the well-being and productivity of employees. Unfortunately, verbal sexual harassment remains an issue that can have significant implications for employees and their overall sense of safety and dignity. In this blog post, we will explore what verbal sexual harassment entails, provide examples to illustrate its forms, and emphasize the importance of addressing verbalized harassment behavior in business settings.

Defining Verbal Sexual Harassment

Verbal sexual harassment encompasses unwelcome verbal conduct of a sexual nature that creates a hostile, intimidating, or offensive work environment. Verbal sexual harassment examples can involve explicit or implicit sexual comments, advances, requests, or any form of communication that undermines a person’s dignity based on their gender.

It is essential to note that both women and men can experience verbal sexual harassment, and individuals of any gender can perpetrate the behavior.

Examples of Verbal Sexual Harassment

To understand the scope of verbal sexual harassment, let’s explore some common examples:

  1. Syntrio - Blog Can Sexual Harassment be Verbal?Sexual comments or jokes: Making sexually explicit remarks, jokes, or innuendos that objectify or demean someone’s gender or sexuality. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general.
  2. Unwanted sexual advances: Making unwelcome advances, such as explicit propositions, requests for sexual favors, or persistent unwanted flirting.
  3. Lewd or offensive language: Using sexually explicit, vulgar, or offensive language that creates an uncomfortable and offensive atmosphere for others.
  4. Sexually suggestive gestures or body language: Using inappropriate gestures or other non-verbal cues to convey sexual intentions or create discomfort.
  5. Sexual rumors or gossip: Spreading rumors or engaging in gossip about an individual’s sexual activity or preferences can lead to humiliation or ostracization.
  6. Displaying sexually explicit material: Sharing, displaying, or distributing sexually explicit material, such as explicit images or videos, without consent, in the workplace.

Understanding the Impact

 Verbal sexual harassment can have severe consequences for individuals and the workplace as a whole. It creates a toxic work environment, leading to decreased job satisfaction, increased stress, and reduced productivity. The emotional and psychological impact can be long-lasting, causing anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. Additionally, victims may experience physical symptoms, such as headaches or sleep disturbances, resulting from the stress and trauma of the harassment. 

Addressing Verbal Sexual Harassment

Businesses are responsible for creating and maintaining a safe and respectful workplace environment free from verbal sexual harassment. Here are some important steps organizations can take: 

  1. Implement a comprehensive anti-workplace harassment policy: Develop a clear and concise policy that defines and prohibits all types of workplace harassment, including all forms of sexual harassment. Ensure that all employees are aware of the policy and understand the consequences of violating it.
  2. Conduct regular training sessions: Provide mandatory training to all employees to educate them about verbal sexual harassment, its impact, and ways to prevent and address it. Training should emphasize the importance of bystander intervention and provide guidance on reporting procedures – Syntrio’s state and national anti-harassment training courses address all laws and recommend guidance for employees and managers to handle workplace harassment better.
  3. Encourage reporting and provide support: Establish a confidential reporting mechanism – like Syntrio’s trusted employee ethics hotlines that encourages victims and witnesses to come forward without fear of retaliation. Offer support resources, such as counseling services or employee assistance programs, to those affected by harassment.
  4. Investigate and take appropriate action: Promptly investigate all reports of verbal sexual harassment and take appropriate disciplinary action against offenders. Communicate the outcomes of investigations to the affected parties and maintain confidentiality throughout the process.

Get Support from Syntrio

Verbal sexual harassment has no place in the modern workplace. It is essential for organizations to create a culture of respect, inclusivity, and zero tolerance for harassment of any kind. By understanding what constitutes verbal sexual harassment, recognizing its impact on individuals, and taking proactive measures to address it through regular training -link- and reporting supports -link-, businesses can foster an environment where all employees feel safe, valued, and empowered. 

 Remember, it is everyone’s responsibility to Speak Up! against verbal sexual harassment and create workplaces theat promote equality and dignity for all. 

Marcy is a lifelong learner with a passion for people and data-driven decisions. An Award winning fine artist, Marcy has spent more than 27 years leading digital marketing for businesses, where she has found a home connecting the art and science of marketing. Her problem-solving and visual-thinking mindset naturally serves others who are striving to learn.

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