Public confrontation

It is recommended the use of panels to investigate complaints of sexual harassment. Because this most commonly occurs in a context of institutional power, those who have been victimized are often, understandably, reluctant to use the ordinary channels for re solving complaints. This is especially true because of the humiliating and disorienting impact of sexual harassment, where the victim may experience the sort of self-doubt, self-blame, and sense of degradation common to victims of rape, incest, and battering.

It is important, therefore, that the means of hearing and resolving complaints of sexual harassment should be distinct from the regular administrative hierarchies. To promote the effective and equitable resolution of problems involving sexual harassment, it seems necessary to have: 1. An explicit policy adopted by the college or university or workplace in compliance with the provision of Titles VII and IX, applicable to all units of the system.

Such a policy allows uphold and enforce its policies against sexual harassment within its own community (including such severe penalties as loss of pay or position or tenure) without requiring victimized individuals to undertake the laborious, protracted, and costly process of seeking redress from the courts under Titles VII and IX. 2. One body of individuals, delegated by, and responsible to, the president of the college or company, who are specially knowledgeable about the nature of sexual harassment and trained to deal with both complaints and those accused of harassment fairly, sensitively, and confidentially.

3. A body composed of staff so that the whole community is represented. Under Hunter's policies, a person may contact any member of the Panel for initial, informal discussion. In order to make access to the Panel as easy and as comfortable as possible, its membership reflects the diversity of the college community, in terms of sex, sexual orientation, programs and ranks, and racial and ethnic background.

Research has indicated, and the Panel's experience has confirmed, that many feel more comfortable contacting someone they identify with as a peer, so that the more diverse the composition of the Panel in terms of status, sex, race, and so forth, the more access it provides the community it serves. 4. Common definitions of sexual harassment and common procedures for resolving conflicts applied equitably throughout the institution, regardless of the status of the complainant or the person complained against. Without a common procedure, inequities can easily occur in the effort to protect individuals' rights under Titles VII and IX.

Remick et al. (1990) have offered suggestions concerning the characteristics of a “good” investigator of complaints of sexual harassment. (1) Investigators must conduct the investigations and write recommendations and reports in clear, objective language, be fair and candid, and not have their personal feelings interfere with effectiveness; (2) investigators must be sensitive to the hierarchy in the workplace setting; and (3) investigators must be sensitive to the issues involved in sexual harassment, including sexuality, power, and anger toward women.

Investigators must maintain a distance from all individuals involved in the investigations so that they can make an informed judgment about the complaint and be upheld as objective by hearing officers, judges, college presidents, et cetera. Remick et al. also recommend an interview team consisting of a woman and a man when doing investigations. Stein (1999) suggests that writing a letter to the harasser frequently stops the harassment.

She recommends that the letter consist of three sections: (1) a factual account of what happened, (2) a description of the way the writer feels about the events that occurred, and (3) a statement of what the writer wants to happen next. Stein also recommends the following: 1. Deliver the letter in person or by registered or certified mail. 2. Do not send copies of this letter to the press or college administrators. 3. Keep at least one copy of the letter. 4. Don't discuss the letter with the harasser if you do not want to.

Writing a letter to the harasser can be a successful individual strategy because 1. it helps the victim gain a sense of control over the situation; 2. it breaks a pattern of silence the victim may have kept out of fear of retaliation and/or disbelief; 3. it maintains confidentiality; 4. it provides harassers with information about the way their behavior is being interpreted by another individual; 5. it most likely avoids formal charges and a public confrontation; 6. it suggests that the victim is willing to take action to stop the harassment.