When thinking about sexual harassment at work, we normally envision unwanted advances and physical contact such as groping. However, the world has changed over the years, and many workers are working remotely from home. We have adjusted to working online, and so too has sexual harassment.
Online abuse takes on many forms that are just as harmful as sexual harassment in a traditional in-person work environment. These malicious behaviors seem to have no boundaries, even virtual ones.
What online sexual harassment looks like
When telecommuting to work, these same technologies that make our lives easier have also made sexual harassment more accessible to those looking to abuse, monitor and exploit. Some common examples of online sexual harassment include:
- Receiving messages: When you receive emails, texts or instant messages that are of a sexual nature, if you feel uncomfortable, then it can be a red flag that someone has subjected you to harassment.
- Sending messages: Being pressured to send explicit photos or videos to your co-worker or boss can be a digital version of sexual harassment.
- Monitoring: Using technology to track or monitor your online activities, such as spyware, can be the first step when an abuser is looking to control, intimidate or threaten your autonomy.
- Catfishing: Using a fake profile to engage you in chatting online is a common tactic used by abusers to get your attention. You think you are talking to one person, but they are actually “catfishing” you with lies and falsehoods. The perpetrators of such acts often use these tactics to gain trust and exploit your vulnerabilities.
- Insulting or humiliating: Digital abuse can occur when someone at work is using social media or interoffice communication channels to embarrass, insult or humiliate you with something of a sexual nature.
- Hidden cameras: Tech-savvy abusers often plant hidden cameras or hack into existing cameras on laptops ad cellphones. These clandestine methods aim to capture photos or videos that they can use to coerce and intimidate.
Many are not aware of what constitutes digital abuse; it is helpful to know the abusers’ methods. Understanding the various ways that online abuse can manifest itself is the first step to preparing yourself to respond appropriately.
If you haven’t yet considered the possibility of online sexual harassment while working remotely, now might be the time to take action to protect yourself and your co-workers.