We can’t say this enough. Seriously, we can’t.
You need to build a support network to help you get through this.
When people look back years later, they all say the same thing: their support network was the thing that helped them the most.
Talk with people you can trust to listen and support you
Why do this?
It will help you emotionally process what’s happening. Sexual harassment can seriously mess you up. It helps to talk with other people.
But here’s something that may surprise you. Experts say the best people to talk with aren’t necessarily the ones you’re closest with.
What you’re looking for is someone to listen to you and sympathize with you. Sometimes, the people you’re closest to can’t do that. They might get mad or be overprotective. They might tell you what to do, or insist they’re going to do something. They might have strong opinions, and they might be wrong.
Experts say it’s best to talk with people who will give you 100% sympathy and kindness, and let you make your own decisions.
Don’t talk with people at work (at least, not right away)
People at your work can be an important source of sympathy and information. They can also act as witnesses, if you end up reporting.
But experts say it makes sense to wait a little before talking with your co-workers.
There are a couple of reasons why:
- If you tell someone at work what’s happening to you, they might report it and trigger a formal investigation. Even a co-worker could do that. If you’re not sure you want an investigation, it makes sense to avoid triggering one by accident.
- They may tell other people. That can lead to you being gossiped about and judged. You could end up getting labelled as “a problem” or “difficult to work with.”
- They may side with the harasser and believe that you are misunderstanding or exaggerating what’s happening. Experts say that, before you risk talking with people who might react badly, it’s better to first spend some time thinking and talking with people you know will be sympathetic.
Find additional sources for support, even if your family and friends are pretty solid
You might be surprised to hear that experts say it’s a good idea to call a domestic violence hotline or a rape hotline or a mental health crisis line.
That may seem like a strange suggestion, because what you’re experiencing isn’t domestic violence or rape, and you may not feel like you’re in crisis. You may feel like reaching out to that kind of support is overkill, and you’d be taking up services from people who need them more than you do.
But the experts say it’s a good idea anyway. They say it makes sense for you to reach out to people who have been specially trained to provide support. To listen without judgment, to not gaslight or disbelieve you, and to connect you with other resources that might help.
Or, you could find somewhere online to talk with people.
There are lots of websites and online communities where people talk about their experiences of sexual harassment and get support from one another. For example, there are some pretty good forums on Reddit, like the sexual harassment subreddit, the subreddit offering support for survivors of sexual assault, and the rape subreddit. Just be aware that most people on Reddit are Americans, and so any legal or HR advice they give you might not be true for Canada.
Why should you seek out support from these places? Experts say that, if you look for advice and support only from your family and friends, that won’t necessarily go well for you. They can feel helpless and overwhelmed, and that can end up straining your relationship and adding more stress to your life.
It’s better, experts say, to get advice and support from people who are voluntarily offering it, and especially from people who have personal experience or professional expertise. That’s what will help you the most.