End the sexual harassment
Once a person has realized that her personal space has been violated, ending this violation becomes her first priority. Some confront the harasser; others turn to the harasser’s manager or follow the ways suggested by the sexual harassment policy. Yet others simply quit their job to escape the situation. While creating a distance between the victim and the perpetrator is certainly an important step, it usually does not automatically resolve the issue for the victim.
Stay in Job
Victims usually want to keep their current job or an equivalent position, and to continue in their chosen career path.
Come to terms with the experience
Each victim comes to term with the experience in her own unique way, but the process often involves the following observations.
- I need to stand up for myself.
If I do not protect and assert my personal space, nobody will do it for me. Even if the perpetrator’s actions are illegal, it is possible that nobody will stop him unless I take steps to defend my rights.
- I need to find my priorities.
Even if a victim is very assertive she will often find out that it is unrealistic that all her wishes will be granted. This does not mean that she is overly demanding. There are often conflicts between simple demands such as working in a harassment-free environment and continuing one’s career, or wanting justice and wanting to move on with one’s life.The victim needs to decide what is of primary importance to her, and act accordingly.
- I need to be true to myself.
Sometimes victims set specific priorities, decide on how they will act but then cannot follow through. For example, the decision to simply bear the harassment in order to enjoy one’s career might end in failure. Victims learn to pay attention to and be honest about their feelings, teaching them what they really want and need.
When victims realize how painful their experience was (or still is), they usually want to make sure that the perpetrator will be held accountable for inappropriate behavior so that nobody else has to go through a similar experience. While this is certainly laudable, victims should realize that they are likely to encounter a lot of resistance in their search for justice, which can add to their sense of powerlessness and increase their pain even further. They should also realize that seeing the perpetrator punished may not give them the closure they desire; they still have to come to terms with the experience of powerlessness. This is not to say that victims should not pursue this issue, but they need to consider carefully if they have sufficient strength and commitment at this point, and whether this is really important to them. Since a lot of pain can be involved in this process, friends should be careful not to push a victim in this direction. One possibility to consider is to first emphasize the personal healing, and to then pursue the issue of justice with renewed strength.
Get on with life
Every victim wishes at some point during the ordeal that she could just forget about the whole thing and move on with her life. This issue cannot be pressed, however, and is not facilitated by encouragement of impatient friends. The experience has been too unsettling and painful and needs to be processed before the victim will be ready to move on. Sometimes victims are held back by the sense that they have a moral obligation to make sure that the case is properly handled, and that no other woman has to suffer as they did. While pursuing justice can feel very rewarding and give the victim a sense of making a positive contribution, the conscious choice to let go of the inflicted injustice and being able to move on with one’s life can be a very empowering experience as well.