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Experiencing sexual harassment? Some tips on what to do

When actresses and artists from our country have spoken out about the sexual harassment they have suffered, a section of the public has been outraged, saying that they are talking about violations that cannot be proven. Yes, in fact, such actions, apart from often being kept quiet, usually take place “behind closed doors”, i.e. without witnesses. This makes it extremely difficult to prove such behavior.

Under the Law on equal opportunities law, the burden of proof is on the person complained against. According to Laima Vengalė-Dits, a lawyer at the Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson, potential victims can facilitate the investigation by helping lawyers gather information about the circumstances of the discriminatory behavior.

Sexual harassment is offensive and unwanted verbal, written or physical conduct of a sexual nature that creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment. “Women, who are the most frequent victims, are subjected to psychological violence – their dignity is violated, they are humiliated, for example, at work, and they are unable to carry out their functions normally,” says L. Vengale-Dits.

She advises people who suspect sexual harassment not to lose heart and to take the following steps:

“The victim should tell the harasser that his actions are unacceptable. This behavior should not be tolerated for months, let alone for a whole year”, says L. Vengale-Dits.

If possible, make a recording. When the victim is trying to defend herself and prove that her rights are being violated, the lawyer suggests making an audio recording by phone or other suitable means.

Keeping emails and messages safe. “Under no circumstances should they be deleted. If possible, copies should be made and kept on a secure medium. These can be text messages, emails with relevant photos, sexist jokes or threats,” she reminds.

Monitor and record the timing of telephone calls. The Equality Ombudsperson does not have the right to listen in on people’s conversations, but the timing of calls can reveal that the harasser, whether an employer or a colleague, has tried to contact you outside working hours.

Keep a “diary”. If the behavior is repeated, L. Vengale-Dits recommends writing down the circumstances of the incidents on a sheet of paper: when and where the harassment took place, what was said or done, and which people could testify to it.

Do not keep quiet: In the workplace, colleagues may be afraid to testify against the employer, but you should still tell your colleagues, as they may notice that you are feeling unwell, finding it difficult to concentrate, worrying about the harasser’s actions, or working in a hostile environment. The victim should also tell their relatives about the unwanted behavior. Their knowledge and support can make you feel better and encourage you to seek help.

Collect medical certificates. L. Vengale-Dits notes that sexual harassment worsens a person’s health. “A doctor’s medical history of psychological difficulties, if caused by discrimination due to one’s sex, can be important evidence,” she stresses.

Report it to your employer or the head of the educational establishment. If you are sexually harassed by a colleague, fellow student or member of staff at an educational establishment, you must report it to your manager.

Contact the relevant authorities. The Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson protects people against sexual harassment in the workplace and in education. People who have experienced such treatment can complain. Alternatively, you can contact the Industrial Labour Disputes Commission or go to court for compensation. If a woman is being abused and pressured to have sex, the police must be called.