While the COVID-19 pandemic has few silver linings, you might have felt excited to start working from home. If you have experienced workplace sexual harassment, you likely hoped that this arrangement would put an end to it. Yet, harassers will find a way to make their victims’ lives difficult, no matter the circumstances. It is important, then, to understand what digital sexual harassment looks like and how you can protect yourself if it happens.
Understanding digital sexual harassment
Working from home eliminates the possibility of certain types of sexual harassment, specifically those involving inappropriate touch. Yet, most other types of sexual harassment can happen digitally, and your risk for experiencing it might increase in a remote environment. Your harasser may believe they are unlikely to get caught outside your physical workplace. Thus, they might feel emboldened to sexually harass you.
Whether during video calls, over email or in group chats, your colleagues or supervisor may be engaging in sexual harassment if:
- They share explicit messages, photos or videos
- They share explicit stories or discuss subjects of a sexual nature
- They expose themselves
- They make jokes of a sexual nature
- They proposition you
Reporting digital sexual harassment
As a remote worker, you might find that gathering evidence of sexual harassment is easier online than in person. You can capture conversations and photos as screenshots, and you can record video calls as – or after – they happen. You will want to save these to your personal computer or phone. And you can then share them with your supervisor – unless they are your harasser – or your employer’s human resources department.
Before reporting your harasser, you will want to confront them directly, whether by email or through a messaging app. Talking with them could put a stop to their behavior, especially if they lack awareness of its inappropriateness.
You will also have to contend with the possibilities of your harasser continuing their behavior or your employer ignoring, dismissing or retaliating against you. In these cases, a legal professional can help you understand your options for putting a stop to their harassment.