Reporting sexual harassment in any environment can be a difficult ordeal, but especially when it happens in a work environment. Even more so when the work environment is a small business with a tight-knit staff and no Human Resources department to report misconduct to.
Power dynamics are an important factor in this situation. If the sexual harassment and advances are coming from a superior, the victim may be even more likely to not report the behavior. The victim may be worried about their job security if they were to speak up, so they may let the harassment continue and say nothing. The only person they could ask for help is a person with higher authority than the perpetrator. This may be another supervisor, the head boss, or business owner.
This scenario is even more toxic if the harassment is coming from the business owner. This leaves the victim no where to turn. Victims of sexual harassment can face additional pressures to stay silent in this environment, especially if they need to keep this job and cannot look for work elsewhere. They may feel stuck and helpless.
Even if the power dynamics allow a victim to seek help, the person they report the sexual harassment to may not believe them or do nothing to alleviate the harassment. There are a lot of politics at play in this situation. The perpetrator may be more trusted by the boss than the victim, or the perpetrator may have worked at the business longer. The boss may not believe the perpetrator is capable of sexual harassment, and discredit what the victim is saying. The boss may brush off the harassment and say that was likely not the perpetrator’s intent with their behavior. There are many ways that allegations of sexual harassment can be mishandled in this scenario.
If the victim does report the harassment and it is handled correctly, then this may make the work environment a more enjoyable place for all of the employees. The boss may decide to create protocol for other cases of sexual harassment, if they were to occur in the future. Other workers may feel that it is easier to report additional misconduct. The issue could create positive change for the workplace, but that is if the allegations are taken seriously and dealt with effectively.