Column: No matter how casual, sexual harassment always hurts

There is a time and a place for flirting, and the conference room isn’t it.

Tatyana Monnay is a freshman journalism major at MU. She is an opinions columnist who writes about politics for The Maneater.

The #MeToo movement has presented sexual assault and harassment survivors with a tell-all platform, giving people the opportunity to understand what can count as sexual harassment and abuse.

For many victims of sexual harassment, the harassment they faced took place in a professional setting. In 2016 the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, a government agency that processes harassment complaints, released a comprehensive study about harassment in the workplace. The study reported that about 25 percent to 85 percent of women have been harassed in the workplace.

For many who have been educated on sexual harassment, they tend to picture violent acts and forceful sexual encounters as the most common form of harassment. But really, it could be as simple as your boss’s subtle way of flirting with you in the conference room. Nothing inappropriate is ever blatantly said, but your gut is telling you that they are being more mischievous than they are nice.

This is problematic for more than one reason. These types of encounters can quite literally make you crazy - or at least make you feel crazy.

After you think that your boss or even fellow coworker is flirting with you, you will rethink and over-analyze every conversation you have ever had with that person. Now, it is one thing if you want to be flirted with and I know it is a tricky situation to judge. However, too many people in authority positions have used their power to wield sexual encounters in their favor or have at least tried to do so.

These types of situations are scary to deal with, especially for women. Although nothing physical has really happened, it makes the recipient of these inappropriate encounters feel weird and uncomfortable. There is nothing to report and nothing to really go on.

Another part of this process is second guessing yourself. There is no way they really meant it like that, right? It is so infuriating because there are times where they really did not mean it that way, and if you confront them, you look like a stuck-up bitch. So it can be easier to just stay quiet instead. According to the EEOC, approximately 75 percent of people who have been harrassed in some way at the workplace do not report the incident.

Not only are these interactions making employees feel uncomfortable, they have the ability to hinder their career. If they are receiving unwanted flirtation, it can be scary to turn that person down for multiple reasons. That person could be who they have to go to discuss promotions, raises and other opportunities. They run the risk of losing opportunities to any of those. Now, their financial and job security are gone simply because they turned their boss down.

Many would argue that losing those potential opportunities is not worth it. The point is, this should not be an active dynamic in any workplace. If you are an authority figure at work, you should not flirt with your employees. In the majority of the cases, it comes off as creepy and is usually unwanted. People should not be afraid to interact with others at work in fear that they will say something inappropriate.

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