Alleged Harasser

Posted April 3rd, 2014 by Duken

A person can become an alleged harasser for various reasons:  First, he may have become the victim of false allegations.  Second, the allegations—while correct—seemed harmless to the alleged harasser; he perceived his behavior as playful and fun-filled, and did not mean any harm. Third, the alleged harasser may have been fully aware of the negative impact of his behavior, i.e., he harassed the victim with the intent to hurt her, or to benefit from the harassment in some way. It is difficult to consider all these situations at once.  The following discussion focusses on those who were surprised by the allegations, i.e., they did not act with malicious intent.

Experience

Rejection

Alleged harassers often feel deceived and rejected.  They were interested in the person who made the allegations, and thought that they were on good terms with each other. The accusations are a very clear sign that the harasser as a person has been rejected.

Humiliation

Being accused of sexual harassment is deeply humiliating. Allegations of this nature suggest that one is incompetent in social interactions, if not downright inappropriate. Once an allegation is made, rumors spread quickly and a private matter is soon the subject of public discussion.

Powerlessness

Whether the allegations are justified, exaggerated or entirely fictional, the person who has been accused of sexual harassment is in danger of losing job, ruining his career, his reputation, family relationships and friends.  And often there is very little they can do to regain control. In an experience quite analogous to those of victims of sexual harassment, experienceing powerlessness can lead to a life-changing crisis.

Goals

Maintain Reputation

Someone accused of sexual harassment will lose his reputation, at the very least to some degree.  He will hope to keep the matter as confidential as possible.

Keep Job

The alleged harasser will want to keep his job.

Justice

If the allegations are unfounded or unfair, the alleged harasser will want a careful investigation, at the end of which he will be exonerated.

Move On With Life

The alleged harasser, like the victim, will want to put the issue behind as quickly as possible and move on with his life.

Learn to Avoid Future Allegations

Ideally, the harasser will honestly question his behavior.  Perhaps he was somewhat insensitive, or failed to verify whether his comments or actions were welcome, and perceived in the way they were intended.  Unfortunately, those who act with clear intentions also learn how to be more effective harassers, for example, how to avoid leaving evidence.

Reactions

Trivializing/Denial

When someone is first confronted with allegations of sexual harassment he often wants to deny the seriousness of the matter.  He might be joking with colleagues giving all kinds of reasons for why the woman made the allegations:  “This woman just has personal problems that she is trying to take out on me.”

Disappointment

Even when the allegations are correct, the harasser often did not mean any serious harm, but thought of his actions as fun and playful.  He trusted that the other person felt the same way.  When harassers are confronted with allegations (often through a third party) they feel that the person who made the allegations has abused their trust.  Why did the person not come directly to them, and explain that they had a problem with the behavior.  Why did she have to talk about it to his employer and make it a matter of semi-public debate? The disappointment and hurt is worse, of course, if the allegations do not correspond to the facts and were made up by a person he had perhaps considered his friend.

Fear

Allegations of sexual harassment are serious.  They can lead to a loss of the job, social status, family relationships, friends, and even freedom.  Naturally the alleged harasser will be haunted by fear that he may loose everything that is meaningful to him.

Anger

Reacting to the loss of control, the alleged harasser is likely to get angry.  He can be angry both at the person who made the allegations and the institution who does not protect him better.  Often harassers are aware that it can worsen their situation if they express their anger openly by lashing out, since it will serve as a demonstration that they do not have good self-control. This can then make the allegations seem more plausible and hurt their case.

Comments are closed.