Sex pest unmasked

Types of Harassers

Types of Harassers

Marital status, level in the organisation and age do not exclude people from being harassers.

It seems that in many cases alcohol reduces inhibitions, and people who normally would not, become harassers.

In many cases sexual harassment could also be linked to self-esteem problems on the side of the perpetrator, causing a need to "prove himself".

While behaviour and motives vary between individuals, we can probably divide harassers into six broad classes:

Mr Macho, or One-of-the-boys

This is usually linked to the bravado mentioned above, when groups of men embarrass women with comments, unwanted compliments or even physical evaluation, lewd jokes or gestures, and display of sexually distasteful posters.

All these could create a hostile environment, and even if it goes no further than verbal and visual harassment, most women experience this as humiliating and disturbing.

The Great Gallant

This mostly verbal harassment occurs when the "gallant" one pays excessive compliments and makes personal comments that are out of place or embarrass the recipient.

While most men and women appreciate recognition and genuine compliments, comments focused on the appearance and the sex of a worker - rather than her competence or her contribution - are usually unwelcome.

Such compliments are sometimes also accompanied by a possessive pride or by leering looks.

The Opportunist

This kind of harasser is usually fairly promiscuous in his attentions to female staff, suppliers or clients.

Whenever the opportunity presents itself, the "office groper's" eyes and hands start wandering. Every birthday, farewell or special occasion is also an opportunity to insist on (usually begrudged) kisses.

Some of this behaviour may take place in public, but if not repelled, he is likely to try to go further in private.

The Power-player

In this case harassment is a power game, where the man insists on sexual favours in exchange for benefits he can dispense because of his position: getting or keeping a job, promotion, orders, bank overdrafts, getting a driver's licence, and so on. The Hollywood "casting couch" is probably the best-known.

The Serial Harasser

The most difficult type of harasser to identify, and the most difficult to deal with, is the serial harasser.

This person is compulsive and often has psychological problems. He carefully builds up an image so that people would find it hard to believe ill of him, plans his approaches carefully, and strikes in private where it is his word against that of a subordinate.

This person's aberrant behaviour is often a call for help, rather than deliberate harassment.

The Situational Harasser

The trigger to this person's behaviour is usually psychological, but more situational than compulsive.

Incidents are often linked to specific life situations or emotional or medical problems, such as divorce, wife's illness, impotence, hormonal imbalance, prostate disease, or psychiatric or systemic disturbances that suppress the higher brain functions, such as Alzheimer's and alcoholism.