If you are experiencing any of the signs of sexual harassment by a friend’s spouse or significant other first hand, it is important to take action immediately. Don’t suffer because you are afraid of what will happen if your spouse/significant other or friend finds out. This is what the person doing the harassing is counting on, that you will be too afraid to tell anyone, or too confused to realize what he/she is really doing. Here are some tips for what to do if you are being sexually harassed by your friend’s spouse or significant other:
1. Keep a journal of the incidents with dates and times, what happened, and how what happened made you feel. This will lend credence to what you are saying when it is time to talk about this with your spouse and/or friend.
2. Tell your spouse/significant other. This can be really hard to do, especially if your loved one is good friends with the sexual harasser, he/she may even try to convince you that it is all in your head, or that you misunderstood something that happened. Be firm, insist it is happening, show the person your journal of incidents. Above all tell your spouse or significant other how it made you feel. Then sit down and figure out what you are going to do to solve the problem together. If your spouse/significant other still doesn’t believe you, see if you can get the person to read this article. Do everything you can to help them educate themselves, including but not limited to, having them talk to a therapist who specializes in assisting victims of sexual harassment.
3. Tell your friend. This is the hardest thing to do, even harder than telling your spouse or significant other, especially if you have been friends for years with this person. However, you owe it to yourself to tell your friend. He/she needs to know what is happening so he/she can help you to put a stop to it. However, be prepared for the fact that your friend may not believe you, may even accuse you of lying. He/she may also sever the friendship. This can be painful, but you have to remember that you have the right to be comfortable, and not to be sexually harassed or hit upon by anyone.
4. Make it clear to your spouse/significant other that this person is not welcome in your home at any time, if he/she insists on still interacting with the harasser.
5. Make sure your friend understands he/she is welcome, or that you will be happy to meet your friend without their spouse or significant other, but that their better half is not welcome and that you do not want to see the person. It is still possible to remain friends, you just have to set boundaries. As long as your friend abides by them, then this will help.
6. Stop accepting calls from the sexual harasser. If you work at a job where you answer phones, see if you can get someone else to take these calls. Find a co-worker you trust and transfer the calls to this person who can then tell the harasser that you are not available. If you don’t answer phones for your company, but just a personal line, and you don’t have caller ID on your phone, let your voicemail pick up all your calls. This is a good way to catch a harasser in the act. Do the same at home, either watch the caller ID and don’t pick it up if it’s the harasser, or just let your answering machine or voicemail pick up all calls. Both of these could be further proof for your spouse/significant other and friend, that this person really is harassing you.
7. If the sexual harasser continues to show up unannounced at your home, don’t let him/her in no matter how much he/she cajoles. Make sure your employer knows what is happening as well, so that if he/she begins showing up at work, your employer can assist you. Above all, if this person still isn’t getting the message after you’ve spoken to your friend and spouse/significant other, or if this person is attempting to retaliate, get a restraining order against him/her. It isn’t a guarantee of complete protection, but it helps and it also keeps what is happening documented.
8. Above all if you do somehow get stuck alone with the harasser, get away as quickly as possible. If he/she begins any sort of talk or actions suggestive of sexuality tell him/her to stop immediately and extricate yourself as fast as possible.
It’s never easy when a spouse or significant other of someone you are close to begins sexually harassing you, and it’s especially hard when it’s so subtle that you have a difficult time convincing anyone it is happening until something worse starts happening such as the person stalking you. Remember you have the right to stop what is happening to you, no one has to suffer being sexually harassed.