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How do you tell a sexual harasser to stop?

You can’t prove a claim for sexual harassment in the workplace if the harasser doesn’t know that his or her behavior is unwanted.

You might assume that this would be obvious. Nobody wants to hear catcalls at work from a boss or another employee, right? Unfortunately, there are people out there who don’t understand why that kind of behavior is unacceptable, so it’s important to make your feelings clear. That’s the best way to protect yourself if the issue ends up in litigation later.

How do you tell your harasser to stop?

1. Be specific.

Tell your harasser that what they are doing is sexual harassment. For example, “When you touch my hair or arm that way, it’s harassment. Don’t do it.”

2. Try being blunt.

Sometimes you have to be extremely direct to get your message through. For example, “Jokes are supposed to be funny for everyone. Those aren’t funny and they’re offensive.”

3. Defend your space.

You cannot afford to be unclear. Sometimes the best thing to do is establish specific boundaries. You can say, “Let’s keep things professional,” and move right back to a work topic.

4. Clarify your feelings.

If there seems to be any doubt in your harasser’s mind about what you really mean, clear it up. Say, for example, “I don’t want you to talk to me like that,” or “I’m not interested.”

Regardless of what you ultimately decide to say, it’s helpful to anticipate a situation and practice your response. You may not have that luxury when you’re presented with a situation for the first time, but if you fail to put a stop to the harassment, you can bet the opportunity will come around again. Having a clear response in your mind will make it easier to say what you mean.

Sexual harassment is never okay. When it happens in the workplace, it can be devastating to both your career and your emotional health. If you’re the victim of sexual harassment, document everything that happens and consider discussing your potential options with a legal professional.

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