Part 3 of 7 of a series on “How the Law Can Protect You from Sexual Harassment” by Randall E. Strauss, Esq., Gwilliam, Ivary, Chiosso, Cavalli & Brewer

Every story has a beginning, a middle and an end. For victims of sex crimes, the story begins with what they once had, and it ends with what they have lost. In the middle is what happened to them, an event or series of events they must share with others in order to achieve justice and healing.

For a victim of workplace assault or harassment, telling your story can be overwhelming. As you reel from loss of safety, security and self-identity, you may feel that keeping records and filing reports is virtually impossible. Those steps, however, can be powerful tools for moving forward, as well as for obtaining legal relief.

Telling your sexual harassment story is the first and most important step toward recovery. Take time to review what happened, then write it down. The clearer and simpler your story is in your own mind, the easier it will to share with others, whether that’s your HR department or a jury of your peers. Your story will become the basis of your sexual harassment complaint:

● Who did what to you?

● When did it happen?

● Where did it happen?

● What did you do?

● Who saw what happened and what did they do?

● What documents or other records (diaries, journals, emails) exist that could support your claim?

Most important, you will need to be able to explain to others how the experience affected you, your job performance, your physical and mental health and your family and personal life.

Here are guidelines to help you organize and tell your story:

1. Don’t be intimidated. It’s your legal right to complain without fear of retaliation.

2. Be prepared. Create a timeline of incidents that support your story. Make two copies of supporting documents and witness lists and give one set to HR. Write out your statement and practice saying it out loud.

3. Speak from your heart in plain words. Don’t think about having to prove a legal claim, just tell your story. Describe what was offensive to you and how did it affect you personally and at work. Use plain words, such as, “He touched me, and I didn’t want to be touched,” or “I asked her to stop making humiliating remarks about me in front of others, and she laughed.”

4. Be clear about why it was intolerable. Again, don’t try to frame your story in legal terms. Often, the most compelling stories are the simplest. “After I told my boss not to touch me, he threatened to get me fired if I told anyone. I worried so much about losing my job that I couldn’t sleep. Before this, I never had insomnia and I had high performance ratings. Afterwards, I couldn’t sleep, and I made mistakes in a task I usually do easily.” Add details until the story is complete and clear.

5. Take care of yourself while you deal with your complaint. Everyone experiences work stress, but stress related to sexual harassment can be traumatic, causing a range of physical and emotional ailments such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Stress can impact your life for years. Your attorney should include a claim for emotional distress in your complaint. Help yourself by talking with others, such as friends, family members, your doctor or clergy. Explore ways to expand your repertoire of self-care strategies.

6. Get therapy or coaching if appropriate. This is not the time to tough it out and do it yourself! Your primary job is to take care of yourself. A good therapist, medical professional or clergy member can help you unburden from emotional, physical or spiritual pain that prevents you from being more relaxed and focused. Legal privilege may protect your communications, but if your care professionals are called to testify at trial, they can support your story and show that you’re taking steps to alleviate the harm you’ve suffered.

If you’ve been the victim of sexual harassment, an employment attorney can answer your questions and help you determine next steps.

Speak to an Employment lawyer about your unique workplace harassment situation.

To learn more please contact the Oakland law firm of Gwilliam Ivary Chiosso Cavalli & Brewer at 510-832-5411 or email us at [email protected]