The article has been automatically translated into English by Google Translate from Russian and has not been edited.

The silent victims of harassment: 4 reasons why women endure harassment


Source: Life hacker

At least four reasons affect the victim's behavior, but there are just as many ways to eliminate them. Life hacker.

Photo: Shutterstock

In April 2020, a student at Moscow State University, Daria Varakina, accused teacher Dmitry Funk of harassment. She spoke about the incident on her Instagram.

Daria's post contains the following detail: “I ignored disgusting comments <...>. I talked about what I had originally planned, while I understood all the meaninglessness. "

Such reactions to harassment are not uncommon. 70% of women have experienced harassment in the workplace. At the same time, according to the results of a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation, 72% of Russians have never heard such things happen to their friends or relatives.

We hardly often see a woman hitting the abuser, yelling at him, or otherwise expressing indignation in response to a greasy compliment or an obscene gesture. Most women, according to studies, react passively to such situations: they silently endure, ignore, and psychologically withdraw.

Why women don't fight back

  1. Don't want to sound impolite

Do not shout. Don't worry. Be modest. Be polite. What will people think?

It is not customary in society as a whole to protest violently when something bad happens to you. Of course, if someone is robbed or killed, you can shout, but in other cases, other attitudes work: "Don't do drama" and "Be quiet."

The idea of ​​being calm, agreeable and comfortable has been hammered into the heads of their children by many parents from an early age. All children, but especially girls.

If a boy defends himself or provokes a conflict, they approve: "Give him back", "Be able to stand up for yourself", "You're a man." As a last resort, they can reprimand: “Did you fight again? Oh, these boys! "

As a rule, they demand something else from a girl: “Be wiser”, “Do not provoke”, “Stay sweet and gentle”, “Remember that strength is in weakness”.

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If you repeat this to a person from childhood, the idea will take root - and have an impact on adulthood. Women find it more difficult to defend their interests, protest, express dissatisfaction, refuse overtime work.

To loudly declare that the actions of another person are unpleasant to you, and to demand that it stop, - this requires a certain courage. Moreover, instead of protection and approval, those around them can demonstrate mistrust and indifference to the victim. Not all women are able to cross this barrier and step out of the role of a good girl.

  1. Don't trust their feelings

Harassment began to be treated as a problem relatively recently, and the criteria for this concept, let's be honest, are rather vague. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as: "Unwanted physical contact, comments related to sex and coming from a person who causes irritation and dislike."

In the UK, the Equal Rights and Nondiscrimination Act was passed in 2010, and it explains the concept of harassment in more detail: it is “unwanted sexual behavior” that degrades a person’s dignity and “creates an intimidating, hostile, demoralizing and offensive environment”.

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People may not always be able to draw the line between harassment and flirting.

Moreover, not only the aggressors, who believe that it is quite natural to molest someone, cannot, but also the victims. They do not seem to like what is happening, but they fear that they “misunderstood” and “blow the elephant out of a fly”: what if it’s just politeness or friendliness, and you can offend a good person.

Student Daria Varakina wrote about this in her post: “Even before that, he sent ambiguous messages, but I ignored my bad feelings and dropped everything on a simple“ fatherly ”concern: they say, he cares about everyone, there is nothing“ like that ”in this. After all, he has an impeccable reputation as the “grandfather” of the department / faculty, he helped me with educational literature ... "

It is still difficult for women to fully accept the idea that they need to defend their boundaries and suppress any words or actions that are unpleasant for themselves, even if the intentions of the opposite side seem to be the best. But this idea is increasingly being heard in the information space.

  1. Fear

Surely everyone has heard that humans (and many other animals) have two types of reaction to a threat: fight or flight. Either you fight the attacker, or you get away with all your might.

But there are two other answers that are less known: freeze and please. In the first case, a person falls into a stupor and does nothing to save himself, hoping that if you ignore what is happening, it will somehow end by itself. In the second, he “cajoles” the aggressor: he smiles, apologizes, shows friendliness, and tries to reason with him gently.

These types of defensive reactions come on the scene if a person is already traumatized or, for some reason, does not see another way for himself: too scared, not strong enough to resist, including psychologically.

Such passive reactions often appear precisely in response to harassment or even violence. And this is the reason why the victims do not always resist the criminals, and they, in turn, believe that they did nothing wrong, because the other side was “not against”.

A small study from 2004 showed that it is common practice for women to respond with a smile to an obscene statement. But this is not a smile of joy or pleasure, it is a cardboard, fake grimace behind which fear is hidden. But some men, especially those prone to harassment in principle, perceive such a reaction as a signal of approval.

  1. Remain hostage to mentality and culture

Here is what a psychologist, a member of the Professional Psychotherapeutic League of Russia, Julia Hill, writes about this:

“In such situations, the historical and cultural context plays an essential role. What can be considered acceptable and what is not? What is harassment and what is harmless flirting? I don’t think that we generally have a clear idea of ​​how communication between a man and a woman should be built so that we can show interest, and not violate the boundaries, not cross the line.

First, gender equality in relationships is a relatively new thing in our culture. For a long time it was believed that a man shows the initiative when meeting, and a woman - a "weak" creature - takes courtship. Her interests were defended by her father or brother, she was "for her husband." Of course, this is already an atavism, but some unconscious belief that a man is more active remains. And the phrase “a man must conquer a woman” can also be understood in different ways. Including this: "There are no dissenting women, there are unstable men." In general, in the field of gender equality, we seem to have entered the motorway, but we continue to move along it on an old horse-drawn cart. Not all of course. But it is still more convenient for someone to live by old beliefs, perhaps with their help to assert themselves, to feel their strength and superiority in dealing with women.

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Secondly, deliberate display of attention is always associated with violation of boundaries. For decades, the interests of the collective were put in the first place, and we still have the thought: "What will people think?" And the attitude "it should be done" prevails over "I want." We still have to learn and learn to draw a clear line between the interests, feelings and values ​​of another person and our own. "

“Thirdly (and this is our story again), the thinking of a“ survivalist ”is developed in Russia. In the older generation, to a greater extent, but young people also managed to "catch" them through family legends. With this type of thinking, the main thing is to sit quietly, not stand out and in no case enter into confrontation with people who have at least some kind of power. A policeman, a boss, a teacher, an aunt who issues vouchers for social security. This approach has helped generations to survive in situations of repression and scarcity. Family convictions in this case sound like this: "Do not get on the rampage", "Do not spoil the relationship", "Be patient, your life depends on it." With such attitudes, it is really scary to refuse a man who can indirectly affect your career or well-being. "

How to learn to fight back

  1. Strengthen your personal boundaries

To do this, first of all, you need to restore connection with your feelings and desires. Ask yourself even on trifles: "What do I want now: tea or coffee, walking or reading?" So you will gradually begin to better understand your more global desires, move from the prevailing "must" to the realization of your own life goals.

  1. Develop relationships with parents

Fear of someone more powerful is, among other things, the problem of separation, separation from parents. We subconsciously project the parental figure onto another person. In the case of a student, the teacher. The desire to be a good girl, the fear of upsetting, the fear of punishment is a common childish scenario of behavior in order to "earn love." In such situations, there is very often unconscious guilt and shame.

  1. Don't be afraid to call a spade a spade

If you are in doubt about what is happening - harassment or flirting, ask politely: "Do I understand correctly that you are showing a male interest in me?" Such a question will surely discourage the enemy. If he says yes, you can answer: I'm not interested in a relationship. If "no", you can explain: "These gestures give me discomfort."

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In general, the ability to say “no” and to defend personal boundaries in an environmentally-friendly manner is a sign of the behavior of an adult who is responsible for his life and is ready for any consequences of his decisions, even if not always pleasant.

  1. Search resources

In our reality, due to refusal, you can really be left without work, career and other benefits. Women are not legally protected from harassment, so a “retired” suitor can disguise revenge as a work necessity, coincidence, and the like.

If we are talking about a large city, then at the very least, you can find another job, change the university. But in small settlements, if the aggressor has status and authority, the woman is trapped. Therefore, “to seek resources” in this case is primarily a life recommendation, not a psychological one. It is necessary to think over who, how and when will be able to provide real assistance if you are powerless before the actions of the aggressor alone.

The problem of harassment and reaction to it is complex, and both parties are responsible for it, albeit not equally. Perhaps there will be more mutual respect and sensitivity between people if women have the courage to respond with a firm and decisive "no" to any unpleasant action. And men will understand that it is not worth touching someone or making proposals of an intimate nature without explicit consent and approval.

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