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Generally, harassment consists of unwelcome and offensive behavior that undermines an individual through persisting attacks. This negative behavior is calculated to demean, humiliate, or patronize the victim, usually as a play of power by the offender. Harassment is illegal, therefore it should not be tolerated or endured. To report harassment and have effective action taken, evidence must be gathered that this behavior exists or has occurred.
Harassment can come in many forms and may be difficult to recognize. Harassers tend to mask their actions under the pretense of jocularity or mere flirtation, and victims who confront the perpetrators can be accused of reading too much into casual statements. Avoid jumping to conclusions and making accusations before you are certain. A telltale sign of a harasser is that the actions do not stop at a single instance, and will gradually build up a pattern of repetitive behavior that will let you recognize it for what it is. If you are still uncertain, you can also discuss the incidents with eye witnesses that you trust to remain silent, and ask them if they observed the same nuances you did in the harasser's behavior.
Before you report harassment, first look carefully into the laws or company policies that concern harassment in your area. These will vary depending on the nature of the harassment, as well as the country laws or company policies that cover you. Conduct further research, or consult an attorney if necessary, in order to fully grasp the extent of the laws or policies and if they cover the harassment you are experiencing. Once you have ascertained that the laws or policies do prohibit the actions being inflicted upon you, you can proceed with the next step.
Documentation is your primary source of proof in order to properly report harassment. You need to record the time and date of each harassing statement or action, as well as the specific act of harassment itself. Take note of the location it took place, as well as any possible witnesses to this behavior. If there is more than one participant in the instance of harassment, make sure to log each participant's name.
Do not allow yourself to be left alone with the harasser, especially outside of public places. Not only can this contain an element of danger if the harassment is of a sexual nature, it also does you no good if you cannot produce witnesses. Keep people around you at all times to both ward off the worst of the harassment, as well as to be valuable witnesses if the objectionable behavior should persist.
Once you believe you have ample evidence to report harassment, request an appointment with the relevant authorities in order to make an official report. This would be the human resources department or your supervisor if the harassment has been taking place at work, or the local authorities. Keep the documents in a sealed envelope if you are worried about confidentiality, and request a private meeting. Despite the emotional upheaval the harassment may have wrought upon you, remain calm and focused when discussing the report as histrionics may harm your credibility.
When you have filed an official report, allow for a week's processing time and then follow up. If you do not receive proof by then that your report is under investigation, file your case with a higher authority. Time is of essence as your credibility can be damaged by a long delay between the instance of harassment and the time the report was filed. Additionally, eye-witness memories of the incidents may no longer be as fresh in cases that take too long.
Before and after you file your report, maintain a professional demeanor toward the offender. Do not allow yourself to be drawn into situations or conversations that may compromise your credibility. Restrict interaction with the harasser to the minimum necessary, and refrain from using the harassment report as a verbal threat. Certain types of personalities will only take this as a challenge and could be spurred to more extreme behavior.
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