It is not often that a woman musters enough courage to report an incident of sexual harassment or molestation at work or otherwise.
Blame it on the post-traumatic stress or the fear of stigma attached to such incidents; most women tend to bear the harassment silently without confiding into anybody, till it reaches a point where it becomes unbearable for her to continue.
According to the experts dealing with such mental trauma cases, the numbers have seen a steady growth in the last few years as more women have been coming out to work.
“We frequently see cases of sexual harassment at work place, and the number has only been increasing. It may still not be common though,” said Dr Samir Parikh, Director of the Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Fortis Healthcare.
One needs to look at a few dimensions when talking about harassment per se as harassment may not always have a gender context to it, feel mental health experts.
“Bullying, favouritism, non-favouritism at work place is very much harassment, and one tends to extend it by introducing power equation to it, wherein the boss tries to exert power over his or her subordinate,” says Dr Parikh.
Harassment takes on a whole new meaning when one tries to transgress from one level to another while exerting power. And in most cases, the victim has no other option but to put up with the misconduct as there is not much in terms of help for such victims.
“As a society we are not victim friendly, so obviously there is a fat possibility that the word may not come out, which the perpetrator is well aware of,” said a senior doctor, department of psychiatry at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
There is no ownership and there is no standing up for each other in circumstances like these. “How many of us can think of getting help if we are molested or sexually harassed by someone, especially a superior at work or an institution, as a result majority do not talk about it and keep bearing harassment silently,” added the AIIMS doctor.
However, experts warn against bearing the matter silently. “Harassment of any kind must be reported,” says clinical psychologist Pulkit Sharma, of Imago-centre for Self. “It must be made clear that the behaviour is unwelcome,” he said.
It is also important to keep a record of the misbehaviour – be it text messages, call records, emails, etc. It is advised to keep a written record of the conversations, mentioning date, time and place clearly so that one doesn’t forget crucial details and is able to use these as evidence when required.
Most organsiations have an internal committee to deal with cases of sexual harassment; it’s better to report the matter there before taking a legal recourse. In case the person harassing is the immediate reporting manager then one can report to an human resource personnel.
It is normal to have a sense of extreme fear, and if the victim isn’t able to confide in the family or friends, then take the help of a professional counsellor.
However, victims of sexual harassment are not easy to deal with for even the experts.
“The help depends on why the person has come to see a psychiatrist. In some cases it could be years after the incident, and merely to unburden,” said Dr Parikh.
The solution lies in those in powerful positions becoming more honest with itself, and looking around to see how much exploitation they do or is happening around them.
Geetika Kapoor, consultant school psychologist, however, feels that the solution lies in sensitising children on gender issues. “The kind of behaviour we see in adults these days is mostly because counselling on the issue was missing during their childhood.”