Let’s Talk About Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment is an uninvited behaviour that is offensive, embarrassing and terrifying. Sexual harassment can be in written, verbal and physical form, and it can happen in person or online. Anyone regardless of their gender can experience sexual harassment. It can also happen anywhere such as work, school, university or any public place.
In this day and age, the tackling of sexual harassment has been greater than ever. In the past, due to the lack of support for women who are victims of sexual harassment, many do not want to speak out about the traumatising experience. Now, women are able to speak up about any sexual harassment they faced with the introduction of the MeToo movement that was founded in 2006 by activist Tarana Burke. This movement then became mainstream in 2017 when victims of sexual harassment and assault began to use #MeToo following the sexual abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein.
As mentioned above that both genders suffer from sexual harassment. Men can also be victims of sexual harassment, but the majority do not want or dare to speak up about it. Just like women, men can also be sexually harassed in their workplace or in public areas. However, men do not get the same kind of help and support needed as compared to women.
Hypocrisy When Helping Victims
It is great that now women are getting the support and help needed with the likes of the MeToo movement and even Time’s Up movement after years of staying silent. Even though these movements have created social awareness about sexual harassment in the workplace, many are still reluctant to report it – especially men. Sexual harassment should not be taken lightly, however, society does not treat male victims seriously due to the misconceptions correlated with male behaviours and also stigmas. For example, society also correlates that men should be strong, men are aggressive and men should not be weak.
The Silent Struggle
The reason why men are not likely to open up about their sexual harassment experience as many fear being made fun of by their friends or co-workers. Besides that, many fear a wrongful termination by their employer if they were to speak up about being sexually harassed in the workplace. Not just that, some fear implying their own sexual orientation when being harassed by another male. In addition, research has concluded that bottling up emotions doesn’t make the feelings go away, and it will affect one’s mind and body in the long run. Because of this, men are at risk of developing depression and suicidality due to not being able to talk about this to anyone.
Society Are Not Being Helpful
How often do you see society being helpful to men facing sexual harassment? As mentioned above, male victims often have to endure this silently as men are expected to “men up” as men are supposed to be strong about it. Just on social media alone, when women victims speak and talk about their experience of being sexually harassed, many will offer help immediately and the voice of solidarity is heard. However, when male victims speak out about their experience of their share of being sexually harassed, netizens are quick to downplay their traumatic experience such as saying that they should have enjoyed it if the perpetrator is a woman, and being mocked if the perpetrator is a man.
Suicide Rate Of Men Who Were Sexually Abused At A Young Age
Research has concluded that men are at risk of long-term mental health problems including suicidality when they are sexually abused during childhood. Studies have conducted a comparison of the suicide rate between males with and without sexual assault history. The studies found that 3.5 per cent of healthy-weight males with no sexual assault history attempted suicide, whereas 33.2 per cent of healthy-weight males with sexual assault history attempted suicide due to stigma and lack of support system given to male victims. The same study also concluded that weight alone is not a major factor, percentage-wise does not have a significant difference if overweight males are put into the calculation. As such, those who are sexually harassed or assaulted at a young age increase the odds of a suicide attempt due to the societal masculinity norms.
Let’s Encourage Them To Speak Up!
To conclude, more needs to be done to help male victims of sexual harassment. It is great that more is being done to help sexual harassment victims, especially women. But the need for society to stop belittling male victims is needed more than ever as this discouraging mindset of societal masculinity norms is only discouraging men to speak up even more.
Due to centuries of men being brought up where they are not allowed to show any signs of weakness, it will be a difficult change for society to help men in this manner. It is okay for men to be emotional and it is okay for men to seek help. At the end of the day, men are humans and men are not robots. Robots do not have the capability of showing emotions – unless technology improves to the point where even robots can feel emotions. For men who are a victim of sexual harassment, keep in mind to never keep all of this to yourself, and speak out about it to your friends or family or to whoever you can trust.
If you are not confident in speaking up to your friends and family, here are the two NGOs in Malaysia that you can contact if you ever need someone to talk to.
- Befrienders KL
Email: [email protected]
Operating Hours: 24 hours
Helpline: 016-237 4221
Email: [email protected]
Operating Hours: 7am – 7pm (Helpline)