In our rapidly changing society, the issue of harassment has taken center stage. Yet, for many, the contours of this problem remain unclear. What is considered harassment, and how can you stop it? The first step is awareness, and this article will take a closer look at what defines harassment.
What is Harassment?
Harassment covers a wide range of unwanted behaviors intended to annoy, threaten, or intimidate another. One of the more severe manifestations of harassment is aggravated assault.
Unlike simple assault, aggravated assault involves intentionally causing severe bodily harm or using a weapon during the assault. The presence of heightened intent or the use of a deadly weapon differentiates it from lesser offenses.
Such acts not only violate personal boundaries but also pose significant dangers to society. Recognizing and addressing aggravated assault is crucial to protecting individuals and keeping the communities they work and live safe.
How Does The Law Define Harassment?
By law, what constitutes harassment? Criminal harassment is defined as any unwelcome behavior, whether verbal, physical, or visual, that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment. The scope can range from persistent unwanted attention to more severe forms like sexual harassment.
In Washington State, a person commits harassment if they knowingly make threats without legal justification, which include causing bodily harm, damaging another’s property, physically confining or restraining someone, or any act intended to harm another’s physical health or safety seriously. Moreover, if their words or actions, including electronic communication, make the threatened individual reasonably fearful that the threat will be realized, it constitutes harassment.
Types and Examples of Harassment
There are several forms of harassment, all with unique characteristics. Here’s a brief overview of each to help identify harassment and what can constitute harassment.
- Sexual Harassment: Involves sexual assault, unwanted sexual advances, or sexual comments, even in the form of offensive jokes of a sexual nature. This can also include offensive conduct in regard to sexual orientation, gender identity, or references to genetic information.
- Cyberbullying: Focuses on using digital platforms to intimidate or belittle.
- Stalking: Entails persistently pursuing someone against their will, inducing fear.
- Verbal Harassment: Includes verbal abuse such as derogatory comments or threats. This can often be associated with civil harassment and can result not just in state laws being violated but also can be grounds for a civil harassment suit.
- Racial and Ethnic Harassment: Targets individuals based on their background or heritage. Discriminatory harassment or racial harassment can be in the form of physical violence or general harassing behavior based on national origin. Such conduct could violate the civil rights act as well as violate many state laws.
- Workplace Harassment: Involves unwelcome behavior in a professional setting. In workplaces, there’s also the issue of ‘Power Harassment,’ where authority is misused to demean subordinates.
Recognizing these types helps individuals and institutions effectively address and combat each specific form.
Domestic violence is a traumatic form of harassment that occurs within familial or intimate relationships. Often rooted in power and control dynamics, it encompasses various abusive behaviors.
- Physical Elder Abuse: This may involve hitting, choking, or any form of physical harm.
- Emotional Abuse: Includes constant belittling, humiliation, manipulation, name-calling, or other forms of unwelcome conduct.
- Economic Abuse: Restricts access to finances, typically of a family member. Financial abuse can cause emotional distress. This can also be associated with elder abuse.
- Psychological Abuse: Manipulates the victim’s reality through gaslighting or threats.
- Sexual Abuse: A partner is forced into non-consensual acts.
Instead of being a safe zone and oasis from the outside world, the home becomes a prison, making it imperative to recognize and confront domestic violence head-on.
Elder or Dependent Adult Abuse
Elder or dependent adult abuse is an especially distressing form of harassment that preys on society’s most vulnerable. Each of these is considered harassment:
- Physical Abuse: Involves physical contact such as hitting or rough handling. Harassment laws are typically very strict when viewing physical conduct. Any physical confrontation that is deemed a credible threat to any person, even family members, can be considered criminal harassment.
- Financial Exploitation: Sees the elderly swindled out of their savings or assets. This can also violate civil harassment laws and be subject to a harassment suit as well as criminal harassment charges.
- Emotional Abuse: Includes humiliation, isolation, or verbal assaults. This can include sending harassing messages, such as malicious text messages to family, co-workers, fellow students, and so on.
- Neglect: The basic needs of the elder, like food, medication, or hygiene, are ignored.
- Sexual Abuse: Non-consensual acts are imposed.
Recognizing these forms is crucial since many victims may be dependent on their abuser and feel forced to remain silent or unaware of the injustices they face.
Workplace Violence or Physical Harassment
Workplace violence or physical harassment jeopardizes employee safety and disrupts a productive environment. It also casts a shadow of fear across the workplace. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to actual physical altercations.
An employee might face intimidation, such as being cornered in an office, or direct harm, like being hit or shoved. They may also deal with retaliation after voicing an opinion or taking action to ensure workplace rules are followed. In more extreme cases, individuals might introduce weapons to the workplace, posing immediate dangers. Incidents may stem from personal grievances, professional jealousies, or external threats, such as irate customers.
Sexual harassment is a pervasive issue characterized by unwelcome sexual advances, comments, or behaviors. It might manifest as ‘quid pro quo,’ where job benefits are contingent on sexual favors, or a ‘hostile work environment,’ where persistent inappropriate comments or displays create an unbearable atmosphere.
Sexual harassment examples include unsolicited touching, lewd jokes, sharing explicit content, or making derogatory remarks about one’s appearance or gender. These actions, whether overtly obvious or subtle, have a profound impact on the victim, undermining their dignity and mental well-being. Witnesses are also offended and negatively impacted, highlighting the urgent need for awareness and intervention.
Cyberbullying or Cyberstalking
With new technology comes new ways to harass others. So, what defines harassment in the digital world? Online harassment comes in the form of cyberbullying, which involves using electronic means to intimidate, belittle, or harass. Cyberbullying takes on different forms, including the following:
- Hateful Comments: Leaving negative posts on social media or spreading false rumors about someone.
- Doxxing: The act of revealing someone’s private information without consent.
Cyberstalking is the persistent online pursuit of someone, often involving these behaviors:
- Tracking online activities.
- Using digital tools to monitor and intimidate.
These virtual harassments carry real-world consequences, causing significant distress to victims and blurring the lines between online and offline vulnerabilities.
What to Do if You’re Being Harassed?
If you’re facing harassment, take these steps to ensure your safety:
- Document: Write down every incident, save messages, notes, or any form of evidence.
- Inform: Tell trusted friends, family, or coworkers so they’re aware and can offer support. If it’s workplace harassment, notify the HR department or victim’s supervisor about the co-worker or employee’s behavior in the work environment that is considered inappropriate and how it could impact continued employment.
- Limit Interaction: Don’t engage the harasser, but if confronted, firmly communicate that their behavior is unwelcome.
- Online Harassment: Utilize platform-specific blocking or reporting tools.
Lastly, consider seeking legal counsel or law enforcement assistance if the harassment escalates. A restraining order is often the first step to dissuade a reasonable person from further offensive conduct. Remember, you have the right to safety, respect, and dignity.
Have you Experienced Harassment? Consult With a Lawyer for Assistance!
If you’re wondering, “What is considered harassment?” chances are you’re a victim. Don’t endure harassment; contact Leyba Defense today for a consultation. Speak with a lawyer to understand your rights and guide you as they advocate for your safety and dignity. Legal professionals are here to assist!