Here's Why It's Hard To Recognize Sexual Assault In The Workplace

The term itself comes across as a taboo.

woman at work worried Dean Drobot / Shutterstock

By Meganne MacFarlane

During any job orientation, you will hear management discuss how seriously they take sexual harassment cases and who to go to with such issues.

Unfortunately, sexual harassment can be difficult to spot, despite how you may feel.

A lot of the time, sexual harassment is difficult to report because you may not even realize it’s occurring.

RELATED: Just Saying 'No' To Sexual Harassment Never Worked For Me


One of the managers at my work is quite attractive and has the majority of the employees in awe of him. I now realize his charm and looks made me overlook the fact that the comments being made to me were unwelcome.

Had he been much older or unattractive, the comments probably would have come across as weird and made me feel more uncomfortable than I do.

At first, he would call me beautiful or sweetie and apologize immediately afterward, stating how inappropriate that was and that he didn’t mean to say it.

As I believe most people would in this position, I said it was okay since confronting it as unwelcome when I thought it was purely innocent can be awkward to do; especially when you are dealing with your superiors at work.


A pattern began to emerge where the remarks about my looks became more constant in his greetings towards me when other employees weren’t within earshot.

I know I should have said something at this point, but as I mentioned earlier, it can be an awkward topic to come face to face with. Not knowing how to properly address the issue, I continued to let it slide.

RELATED: The Sad Lesson Sexual Harassment Taught Me About Privilege

One night, he questioned how I was single since he found me fascinating. He mentioned how if he were younger, single, and if I were willing, he would date me.

This was the first conversation we had where I realized boundaries were being crossed, yet I still said nothing. I felt like since I hadn’t said anything earlier, it was too late and would come across like I accepted the other comments but all of a sudden was taken aback by similar ones.


From there, he would make comments about my legs and how stunning I looked in a dress as I left work one day. He offered me a job to work directly in his department, describing the job of my dreams.

I did not take the job, aware of how uneasy I was quickly becoming around the presence of this particular manager. I really couldn’t imagine working directly for him as my primary manager.

Although other employees still mention how they wish he were single or make inappropriate comments about him (calling him daddy), I no longer partake in such conversations.

I realize that even the comments being made about him could be interpreted as sexual harassment. The term itself comes across as such a taboo, but that is what I have been experiencing in the workplace.


I hope that everyone knows that whether it is just the beginning or a continuous exchange, human resources is the best place to go with these issues. It is okay to be off-put one day over the same thing that has been happening for a while.

Any unwanted comments do count as sexual harassment and should not go undiscussed with the respective departments to resolve the issue; because sexual harassment is an issue.

Anyone affected by sexual assault can find support on the National Sexual Assault Hotline, a safe, confidential service. Contact The Hotline or call 800-656-HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member.


RELATED: 5 Subtle Ways Men Make Women Feel Uncomfortable In The Workplace

Meganne MacFarlane is a creative writer whose work has been featured on Unwritten and All4Women. She writes on topics of gender, heartbreak, and relationships.