Characteristics on how to identify a harasser of sexual workplace harassment
Besides the behavior there are also some personalities or characteristics on how to identify a sexual harasser. It clarifies how a person, of who you would have never imagined it, can behave in an abusive way and demonstrate sexual workplace harassment. That’s one of the reasons why it’s very difficult for victims or bystanders to speak-up about sexual workplace harassment. Because who would believe them when the offender is that person of who you would have never expected the harassment from. The personalities we speak about are the public harasser, the private harasser, the predatory harasser and the dominance harasser. These four most common characters can be identified by the following characteristics:
We speak about public harassers when we are dealing with a person who is irrespective; one who has no shame in their seduction or sexist attitudes towards colleagues. These harassers are very self-ensured and convinced that their behavior is accepted, mostly because of their position in the company and the awareness on how to abuse their power in a manipulative way. Let’s say a superior attends at your department and makes sexual based comments about your appearance in the presence of your colleagues. Or for example this superior lets you know how nice your breast look in the blouse you are wearing or how horny he gets from that pants you are wearing.
The best way to describe a private harasser is about the fact that he or she has a cultivated, restrained and respectable image.
Employees will look at this person with respect because of the apparently exemplary behavior, but alone with their victim the conduct changes.
Out of side from your colleagues this so-called safety disappears and the private harasser shows its true colors. When you are dealing with a private harasser it’s very difficult to convince your colleagues or management about what is happing behind closed doors, because they all look at that person as an example on how to behave business wise. The harasser will take away your strength and your voice and uses that respectable image to ensure their unsearchableness. For example, your superior is always nicely dressed and well-behaved towards colleagues and clients. Entering the office with that irresistible smile which simply must be answered with “good morning to you too”. But only you know that when the coffee has been ordered and you have closed the door behind you, the conduct changes. From that respectable person you have to deal with to a superior who makes you feel like an idiot. With comments about how stupid you are, this harasser humiliates you with the purpose to touch you and freeze you with emotional blackmail on how nobody would believe you when you’re considering the possibility to speak-up. For some of us it’s hard to believe, but it happens no matter how strong you are as a person.
The predatory harasser gets sexual thrills from humiliating others who they harass to see how the victim responds. This rapacious harasser needs this response to feel satisfied at the workplace and isn’t careful about who will be a witness of this conduct.
The experience of the sexual trill from the humiliation is the most demanding part from the harasser’s point of view. Perhaps you recognize a situation in which a colleague –suddenly- makes a shocking remark towards a colleague and waits for the effect it has on that colleague, because that effect is the reward needed. For example, a colleague enters your office and asks you if people have noticed it when he’s aroused because of its length. Another example on how predatory harassers can operate is by sharing extreme sexual fantasies via a text message.
A dominance harasser is an offender who engages in harassing behavior as an ego boost, which means that this type of harassers need the sexual harassment to feel good about themselves.
The response of the victim is not in the center for this type of harassers, just the experience of the conduct itself is needed for the harasser to feel good and dominate. The behavior that comes along with this personality is that a dominance harasser will also humiliate the victim with a conduct of sexual nature by sending emails, giving rude comments or to display material of a sexual nature to deteriorate immediately.
This means that the triumph the harassers feel is noticeable by showing complacent behavior in the work environment. The ego boost provides the offender with power and control and will continue because the dominance harasser needs this boost on a daily bases.
Awareness of sexual workplace harassment includes wondering about who your colleagues really are
What all harassers have in common is the need of having power and control. It’s not about the sex, the fact that they speak about the sex is a tool they use in order to humiliate and isolate their victims. A strong word against sexual workplace harassment is believing the victim, because this is where most offenders take advantage of. The so-called image they’ve created to ensure bystanders of the victim’s lack of credibility when they unexpectedly speak-up.
Karin Bosman is Director of About Workplace Harassment (AWH), from Netherlands international speaker, experience expert and politically active on this topic for more than two years. Speaks from her experiences and studies to encourage people to speak and stand-up against sexual workplace harassment by acting on it. She tweets at @
Next week: Different forms of sexual workplace harassment.