If you don’t feel safe trying to talk directly with the harasser, don’t do it. Trust your instincts.
The first thing you need to know is that you don’t have to do this.
We’re telling you that because talking directly to the harasser is something lots of people feel pressured or obligated to do. Their employer may pressure them to do it. They may feel like they’re being a coward if they don’t. They may feel like it’s only fair to warn the harasser and give them a chance to change.
But that assumes the person is harassing you by accident, because they’re confused or clueless. Which usually isn’t true.
The truth is, most harassers are doing it on purpose. They don’t care if the harassment bothers you, or they are trying to bother you. That means they’re not likely to stop just because you ask them to.
You still might want to try.
If so, your goal should be to make it clear that their behaviour is surprising and not welcome.
- It’s okay if the conversation is tense.
- You don’t need the harasser to agree that their behaviour is wrong.
- You don’t need to agree about anything.
- You don’t need to end up friendly.
Scripts that may help you talk with the harasser
Yikes, I am really not a hugger!
Wow, that’s a really personal question!
Hey, that’s a weird joke!
If the person immediately stops—and even better, apologizes—then that’s great and your problem may be solved.
If not, you could try speaking more directly. Like this:
You talk a lot about how I look and it’s making me uncomfortable. I’d like to ask you to stop.
There is a lot of explicit sex talk here and it’s really not my style. I’d appreciate it if you could scale it way back.
The more specific you can be, the better.
You guys make a lot of jokes about me being a woman. It feels aggressive to me, like you’re saying women don’t belong here. I would really like it if you would stop.
When you touch me, it really bothers me. I need you not to do that. I don’t want people at work to touch me like that.
I know I might be the first trans person you’ve worked with. But I need you to stop asking me questions about it. It’s not my job to talk to you about trans stuff.
I find it strange when you give me advice about how to be more masculine. I am happy to talk about other stuff, but I’d like it if we could drop that particular subject.