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Workplace harassment: Why people don't report it instantly

Harassment in the workplace is not new, and it's clear from news reports that it hasn't stopped. People constantly come forward to report new scandals and shed light on inappropriate behavior. These cases make it very clear that people face some serious risks in almost any industry.

You may notice, though, that a lot of these cases involve things that happened years ago. In some instances, decades have gone by. Why is this? Why not come forward instantly?

Shame

Numerous reasons for the delay exist, but people often simply do not want to say anything because that type of behavior causes them to feel shame. Coming forward means really making themselves vulnerable. These cases often wind up in the news. Is everyone they know going to find out what happened to them?

"Shame is a natural reaction to being violated or abused," one expert said. "In fact, abuse, by its very nature, is humiliating and dehumanizing."

Unless you have been there, you can't fully grasp the way shame makes people feel. Even if it sounds clear that they should expose their harasser instantly, it's just not that easy. Some people delay the process while simply trying to work up the courage to take that next step.

Other coping tactics

Another potential issue is that people think harassment is just something they have to endure. Rather than reporting it and putting an end to it, they try other ways to cope. These can include:

  • Avoiding the person who is harassing them
  • Downplaying the situation and acting like it's not serious
  • Trying to forget that anything happened and hoping it won't happen again
  • Trying to ignore the harassment and/or discrimination
  • Simply enduring it and thinking that it will naturally come to an end

They may try all of this, at one time or another, before they decide to come forward and make a report.

Fear

Of course, fear plays a role. Maybe your boss discriminated against you. If you report it, will you get fired? Is your boss more valuable to the company than you are? Will you burn bridges that harm your career?

Again, from the outside, it's easy to say that people need to stand up for themselves and they need to remember that retaliation is illegal. From the inside, though, it's a lot harder to look at things in this light. People actually fear the outcome of a report, even when they were victimized to begin with.

Your options

Are you facing discrimination and harassment on the job? As you can see, it is a complicated issue, and it is incredibly important for you to know all of your legal rights in New York.

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