Nothing in this article is meant to be medical advice. Please consult you own healthcare provider for any questions or issues concerning you own health status. 

Sources for this column:

National Sexual Assault Hotline, 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)

Confused? That’s understandable. And so is the issue, really; that issue being sexual harassment.

The generally accepted definition of sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature made as a term or condition of an individual’s employment, education, living environment or participation in a university community.

On the other hand, sexual assault and rape should be distinguished from sexual harassment. The Department of Justice defines sexual assault: Sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities such as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling and attempted rape.

The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, who oversees Title Vll, tells us more about sexual harassment: “Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).”

EEOC provides additional clarification:

“The victim, as well as the harasser, may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.

“The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee.

“The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.

“Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.

“The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome.” (see above) strongly recommends employers take complaints seriously and investigate immediately, while protecting employees from harm. A complaint does not necessarily need to result in a firing.

It is preferable for the victim to inform the harasser that the conduct is unwelcome and that it must stop. This is not always easy for the victim to accomplish. It is important to be clear. Here is a little formula that might be helpful:

When you… (State the specific behavior that is unwelcome. Example: “When you stroke my back without my consent …”)

I feel… (Example: “I feel very uncomfortable. I do not like it or want it.”)

I want… (Example: “I want you to stop immediately.”)

Or I will… (Example: “Or I will inform your supervisor.”)

Put it all together. “When you stroke my back without my consent, I feel very uncomfortable. I do not like it or want it. I want you to stop immediately, or I will inform your supervisor.”

What is the answer to the confusion?

It is summed up in one simple word: Consent. Check this out from the Thames Valley Police in England:

Callie Wight is a California state-licensed registered nurse with a Master of Arts in Psychology.