When someone opens up about harassment in the workplace, such as sexual harassment, they often mention events that happened years or even decades ago. They kept quiet about it until something spurred them to talk — such as the same issue happening to someone else.
But why did they wait to bring it up? There are many valid reasons.
Damage to their reputation
Sometimes, these individuals fear damaging their own reputation. They think that they’ll be blackballed in the industry or that they’ll be looked down on in the workplace. They know it’s not fair, but they don’t want to risk their job or their career.
A lack of results
Often, they also worry about whether or not anyone will really do anything. They may think people won’t believe them or that no action will be taken. They do not want to risk anything, such as a job and/or reputation if it’s not going to accomplish anything. They’re told to trust the system, but they just don’t feel they can do that.
They don’t have evidence
They may also be worried about speaking up if they feel like they don’t have evidence. Say their boss touched them inappropriately in the office one evening after everyone else had gone home. They know it was wrong, but how will they prove it if their boss just says that they’re lying? No one else saw it happen, so their word is all that they have.
Understanding your options
If these types of issues have been holding you back from speaking about the sexual harassment you’ve faced, please know that you do have legal options. You absolutely shouldn’t be treated like this. Make sure you know what to do next.