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A Few Things You Should Know About Sexual Harassment

If someone asked you to explain sexual harassment, could you do it?

Go ahead, give it a try!

My guess is that you would do a pretty good job explaining sexual harassment and that your definition would have some combination of the words unwanted and sexual. You would be spot on. The concept of sexual harassment is pretty straight forward. What complicates our understanding of sexual harassment is communication, relationships, power.

Sexual harassment is anything unwanted and sexual. As individuals, we decide if something is unwanted for ourselves. Simply put, if my coworker is telling me a sexual joke I get to decide if that joke makes me uncomfortable or not. Body language, facial expressions, comments, etc. let us know when someone is uncomfortable.

What does it mean for something to be sexual? Something is sexual if it has to do with someone’s gender (ex. he throws like a girl), sexuality (ex. that’s gay), or body (ex. you look sexy).

Now the complicated part, sexual harassment doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It happens at work, with friends, with customers, and with family members. These relationships, how much power we have in a situation, and our comfort talking about boundaries impact these experiences for us.

For example, if I’m going out with my girlfriends and one of them tells me I look sexy my response is going to be, "thanks!" If an acquaintance at dinner tells me I look sexy my response is going to be, silence and a look of confusion. If a stranger at the bar tells me I look sexy I’m going to be uncomfortable and looking for my friends to help me out of the situation. The statement is the same, "you look sexy," but based on my relationships and how comfortable I feel in the situation my reaction and the harm I feel is different.

Talk to anyone working in the hospitality and entertainment industries and they will tell you that sexual harassment not only exists but that it is prevalent. When people don’t feel comfortable confronting sexual harassment, the result is that the uncomfortable and unsafe behavior becomes normal.

That is exactly why the SAFE Bar Network exists. We work in partnership with bars and other alcohol-serving venues to create a workplace culture where people use active bystander skills to create a safe and comfortable environment for customers and employees.

We see the hospitality and entertainment industries making positive changes every day!

To learn more about joining the SAFE Bar Network contact us at

There are everyday active bystanders practicing the skills to keep people safe every day. Watch their stories here, Everyday Active Bystanders.

To learn more about active bystander skills check out our blog post, Obstacles. What obstacles? 3 Full Proof Everyday Active Bystander Skills.

The SAFE Bar Network is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) you can join the team by donating your time, talent, and money to the mission of giving everyone a SAFE Night Out, just click here.

Interested in learning more about bystander intervention? Visit our friends at With Us Center for Bystander Intervention.

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual harassment our partners can help. Visit and

To learn more about the field of violence response and prevention visit and

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