While moving to a digital workplace, many women employees are relieved that they don't have to put up with the physical advances, 'harmless' touching, or groping they may come across in the physical world.
But the cyber world has its own set of predicaments. The Digital workplaces are not an exception when it comes to women's safety. About 25% young women report that they have been sexually harassed online.
Abusive and bullying instincts present in normal circumstances will find their way to the cyber world eventually. The paradox, proximity in separation, which defines internet communication, will catalyze inappropriate behaviors and uncalled-for sexual advances.
Interaction via the internet is easy-flowing and less formal. The relative anonymity and non-confrontational nature of the internet make it easy. Even if we pass a lewd comment or share something inappropriate with our colleague, we don't have to face them the next morning!
A report from Kaspersky on how the pandemic has taken a toll on the way people work, reveals that 51% of remote workers admitted watching adult content on the device they use for work. This, in turn, spikes the chances of Sexual Harassment in digital workplaces.
Don't Miss the Signs!
Online Sexual Harassment is any sexual misconduct carried out through a digital platform. It wears many colors.
A broad spectrum of behaviors that use a digital platform to share messages, posts, images, videos, and a sexual undertone will be considered as Sexual Harassment. The communication could be public or private. If an online interaction makes one feel humiliated, sexualized, threatened, coerced, exploited with a sexual connotation, he/she has been sexually harassed. It doesn't always have to be physical.
Here are a few types of online sexual misconduct:
- Sexual Bullying
Sexual bullying is defined as any type of bullying – physical or non-physical – where gender or sexuality is used as a weapon, directly or by the use of technology.
It could be thrown at you in person, or happen behind your back.
For instance, if you receive text messages from your colleague or employer that shame you for your sexuality, it is considered sexual bullying. But if the bullying happens on a digital platform, like on social media, where you are disgraced publicly for the same reasons, it also fits the description.
- Non-Consensual Image or Video Sharing
Most meetings happen online amid the COVID-19 crisis. But the downside is, these videos can be recorded by any of the participants. If these recordings or any other images/videos are used to sexually objectify you, it is Sexual Harassment.
- Online Threats, Coercion, or Exploitation for Sexual Favors
Are you being threatened online or forced into giving sexual favors like sharing pictures that you are not comfortable sharing? This happens in even the most reputed companies; sexual exploitation in exchange for a job, promotion, or salary hike by an employer or your colleagues. If you're worried that the employer may retaliate against you for declining sexual advances, you can take legal action.
How to Take Action?
Digital Sexual Harassment is easier to prove than direct offenses. There is always some evidence, a digital footprint of the "act." These are mostly immutable. But if you believe that you are being sexually harassed, always take screenshots/records of the interaction and save them on your personal drive as a precaution. There is a high possibility that the offender may delete it later.
As a next step, report the issue to your Internal Committee. The IC has to study the situation and ensure that justice is done.
The PoSH Act 2013, which protects women from Sexual Harassment at their place of work, is applicable to digital environments as well. Telecommuting (work from home, making use of the internet, email, and telephone) is also covered under the PoSH law.
This article has been contributed to Femina by Rainmaker Online Training Solutions Pvt Ltd.
Femina & Rainmaker, have partnered to spread awareness about harassment at workplace for the second phase of the #ActAgainstAbuse campaign. The second phase of this campaign aims to raise awareness to report real cases & recognise the companies who rank the highest in this survey of safe places to work and provide them with the knowledge they need to manage this challenging process.
Not acceptable. That's what we need to say to any and all forms of abuse, whether physical, emotional or psychological. We pledge to stand and speak up against workplace violence and urge you to #ActAgainstAbuse. Follow our campaign, #ActAgainstAbuse and learn about workplace abuse and what you can do to protect yourself.
Find more on domestic abuse, our campaign #ActAgainstAbuse, and ways to seek help here