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Does online harassment make you afraid to open your inbox?

You enjoy your job and used to look forward to going to work. However, lately everything has changed: You are confronted with sexual harassment in the form of continual, unnerving emails.

This is a new experience for you and you are not sure how to handle it. You do not know the identity of the perpetrator, but the information you gather can aid in bringing this person’s identity to light.

A growing problem

Studies conducted by Pew Research reveal that 40 percent of internet users have experienced online harassment, and the number continues to grow. Researchers have identified two categories: less severe harassment, which consists of name-calling and embarrassment; and more severe harassment, in which sexual harassment joins stalking, sustained harassment and physical threats. Men and women tend to have different experiences. Men are more likely to be victims of less severe online annoyances, while women—especially those from 18 to 24—are more often the victims of stalking and sexual harassment. Pew Research shows that half of the targets do not know who the perpetrators are, but those they can identify often turn out to be friends or family members.

Workplace incidents

In the workplace, sexual harassment can occur in many forms, from off-color jokes and lewd pictures or videos to unwanted touching and incidents of quid pro quo. Online sexual harassment is on the rise because perpetrators think they are invisible and can get away with cyberattacks. Some people use sophisticated email programs to hide their identity, but they are not as smart as they think they are.

What you can do

Keep records of the dates and times you receive emails related to the sexual harassment you are experiencing. Take screenshots and print out hard copies as evidence. This information will be useful to authorities, website hosts and any other online service that may be useful in an investigation. You should report these incidents to the proper departments at your place of employment. You can also reach out for legal guidance. Sexual harassment constitutes a threat to your mental and physical well-being. Remember, you have rights that must be protected.

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