The headline here is simple. It’s a good idea to keep notes about what’s happening.
Why? There are lots of situations in which having notes might be helpful for you later:
- if you decide to formally report the harassment to your employer
- if you decide to take legal action, or to call the police
- if you end up in therapy
- if you end up going public
- if you just want your own private record
You may never use your notes for anything, but it’s a good idea to have them just in case.
If you end up in a legal dispute, the lawyers on the other side may be able to force you to share your notes with them. It doesn’t happen often, but it’s possible. If there’s any chance you might end up in court, it’s best to make the notes knowing that other people may eventually see them. If there’s something you definitely don’t want other people to see, it’s safest not to write it down.
Here’s how to make great documentation.
Write your documentation in whatever way is easiest for you
Some people use their phone or a computer and other people write by hand. It’s probably best to use a device that you own, and to keep your notes somewhere where other people can’t find them.
If you write your notes on a work computer, it’s a good idea to email them to your personal email address. That way you’ll always have a copy, and you’ll be able to prove when the notes were written.
Write down the facts of what happened
For each incident of harassment, write down all the facts you can remember. This is called a log. You’ll want to include:
- the date and time
- the location
- who was present (including any witnesses)
- what happened, with as much detail as possible
- if you told anyone afterward, and what you both said
- if the harasser told anyone afterward, and what they said (if you know)
If you can remember any exact quotes, it’s great to write them down too.
If there’s anything you can’t remember, that’s okay. Partial information is better than no information. Just do the best you can.
Write down how what happened affected you
It’s not always easy to recognize how sexual harassment made you feel. But try to write down the emotions you felt at the time, or afterward.
- Were you surprised or shocked?
- Did you feel offended, angry, or humiliated?
- Did you feel unsafe?
- Were you scared you would be punished if you didn’t do what the harasser wanted?
There is no right or wrong emotional reaction. If your feelings don’t match what you’ve seen in the media or what other people seem to expect you to feel, that’s okay. What happened to you is wrong regardless of your emotional reaction.
Write down how what happened affected your ability to do your job
- Did you need to spend time trying to make the harassment stop, instead of doing your job?
- Did you need to stop working and leave the area to get away from the harasser?
- Did you need to take time afterward to calm down?
- Did the harasser make it harder for you to do your job, by not co-operating with you or helping you in the way they’re supposed to?
- Did you need to spend time afterward trying to figure out how to handle the harassment and what to do next?
- Did other people stop co-operating with you or helping you because of the harassment?
- Were you humiliated in front of other people, making it harder for you to do your job?
- Did your job performance suffer because you were rattled by the harassment?
- Did you need to avoid the harasser afterward, making it harder for you to do your work?
- Did your job become so unpleasant that you found yourself unable to work as hard or as well as you normally would have?
Write down any other harms you experienced because of the harassment
- Was it hard for you to do normal things afterward, like eating or sleeping?
- Did you have any physical symptoms of stress, and, if so, what were they?
- Did your mental health suffer, and, if so, in what ways?
- Did you end up needing to spend money because of the harassment? (Like, if you needed to park somewhere more expensive to feel safe, or spend money on therapy.)
- Did your ability to earn money suffer because of the harassment? (Like, if you needed to turn down work, or accept worse shifts.)
Keep copies of any evidence you have
It’s a great idea to keep copies of any evidence you might have. Here are the kinds of things you should be thinking about keeping:
- text messages
- phone call logs
- original documents
If the harasser has been harassing you by email, keep copies of those emails. If you have emailed with other people about the harassment, keep those too. Do the same with text messages.
If the harasser has been phoning you repeatedly, take screenshots of your phone call log.
If the harasser has been putting up harassing materials in the workplace (porn, signs, or other things), take pictures of them with your phone.
If there are other original documents available to you, like work schedules that show you are being denied shifts, either keep them or take photos of them.