Sexual harassment has come on to the scene so fast and furious with such severe ramifications that it has left most men fearing for their livelihood and worried about their future and their reputations that they have worked so long and hard to build up. It is no secret that men must be excruciatingly cautious these days, especially when it comes to sexual harassment (regardless of their gender preference). In today’s world, virtually anything can be considered sexual harassment. If ever there was a time to live by the mantra, “forewarned is forearmed,” it is now. I have heard many men attest to the fact that they no longer clearly understand how to behave, what is acceptable and what is not, much less when and how to repair the damage they caused. At times, men find themselves in the dark, and that is not the place to be when so much is at stake. It is imperative that men seek help to navigate this topic.
To keep yourself out of the line of fire and to defend yourself once accused, you first need to educate yourself on exactly what constitutes sexual harassment in all circumstances regardless if you feel the behavior was elicited on the other’s behalf or not. You will also need to recognize warning signals in personalities that are more likely to be the accusers or so-called victims. Last but not at all least, you need to know how to make a solid defense for yourself if innocently accused. Defending yourself well will be one of the most important tools you have in your toolbox. Don’t be caught off guard; it can be very costly.
1. Have a good working knowledge of sexual harassment.
Prevent accusations by understanding and recognizing what could constitute and can be construed as sexual harassment. With this knowledge, you can clearly delineate what you did and did not do. Even a kind word exchanged with someone in a lesser position can be looked upon in a negative light due to a power differential.
2. Use your language and self-awareness to determine who is responsible for what.
Mixed messages in the workplace can be a breeding ground for trouble. But it’s not always you who is sending mixed messages. Learn how to be aware of what to do if you may be giving mixed signals, could be receiving them, and how to avoid them.
3. Know the best way to defend yourself once accused.
Learning to attack accusations is a necessary skill. When men are accused, it can be so devastating that they lose touch with any rights they may have or any level of innocence. Skills such as learning how to incorporate intention as a defense and other protective methods will be your strongest ally.
4. Avoid pitfalls: recognizing and avoiding opportunists.
While it is most certainly true that there are innocent victims of sexual harassment, not every victim is necessarily innocent. Powerful men can be a prime target for opportunists. While it can feel great to get attention, ego has been the downfall of many men. See trouble before it comes, learn how to recognize it, and avoid dangerous people.