Sexual Harassment: The Hidden Cancer

Sexual harassment is a form of gender-based violence or gender-based insults that occurs in the course of everyday life. Discussions about sexual harassment frequently occur on social media and in public spaces, giving the impression that this problem has not been solved. In reality, sexual harassment is a pervasive problem that adversely affects women in Nigeria and many other countries around the world. The main reason for this is a lack of awareness and knowledge about sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment isn’t a thing of the past and never will be. In fact, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), 28 percent of women in Nigeria have been sexually harassed at some point during their lives. An estimated 21 million women worldwide – about 15 percent of all female workers – have reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment in the workplace during the previous year. In Nigeria, women working in public institutions have a particularly difficult time overcoming this kind of harassment, as gender inequality is rampant in the country.

Sexual Harassment: What it is?

Sexual Harassment is antisocial behavior which involves making unwanted and inappropriate remarks or physical advances to another person. It could occur in the workplace, home, social or professional situations as well as in religious centers. This includes both sexual abuse and sexual assault (rape) which are more extreme forms. Victims could be of any gender (either male or female). Any form of offensive sexual attention, suggestions or talk falls under this categorization.

Statistics (Sexual Harassment)

-Africa has the highest prevalence rate of child sexual abuse globally rating about 34.4%

-As at 2004 60% of all child trafficking victims along the Africa to Europe route were Nigerians

-Between 2012 and 2013 30% of Nigerian women suffered one form of domestic violence or another

-A National Survey carried out in 2014 on child victim-related violence confirmed 1 in 4 females suffered sexual violence in childhood with more than 70% reporting multiple incidents

-24.8% of females aged 18 to 24 years, experienced sexual abuse prior to age 18, of which 5% sought help and only 3.5% received any services whatever

Sexual Harassment Red Flags

How do you know or how can you tell if someone is being sexually harassed?

The following symptoms are red flags:

1-Repeatedly touching someone in an unwanted or offensive manner especially on intimate parts of the body

2-Inquiring about someone’s sex life or personal intimate details of their life against their wish

3-Receiving sexually explicit emails, texts and nude pictures

4-Making frequent unwanted sexual remarks to someone especially when alone

5- Harassing someone persistently and forcefully for a “date”

6-Suggesting or demanding for sexual favors in a way that would imply advancing the person’s career

Risk Factors for susceptibility to Sexual Harassment

What are possible risk factors that can make a person susceptible to sexual harassment? These risk factors tend to make you vulnerable:

1- Alcohol and Drug Use: When people’s senses are impaired it is easier for perpetrators to take advantage of them

2- Suicidal behavior: Once a person is mentally under pressure a perpetrator, most especially an authoritative figure in the person’s life may sexual harass such a victim

3-Low self-esteem: Refusal to stand up for oneself when intimidated or threatened can lead to sexual harassment

4-Childhood history of physical, sexual or emotional abuse: Individuals from broken homes or families torn apart by sexual, emotional or physical abuse can be easily victimized.

5-Involvement in a violent or abusive intimate relationship: Individuals especially females in dysfunctional relationships are more prone to be sexually harassed by their partners.

6-Lack of employment opportunities: This dis-empowers the individual notably women who are left at the mercy of possible sexual predators

7- Security Flash-points: Individuals frequenting lonely or dangerous places, such as crime zones are more likely to be “targets of opportunity” to sexual hunters and criminally insane people

Ways of combating sexual harassment

There are practical ways of combating sexual harassment, these include:

1-Educate yourself: Know your rights, nobody has a right to sexually harass you.

2- Report it: Immediately report any forms of sexual harassment to the appropriate authorities namely community leaders, police, workplace authorities as well as trusted and upright religious figures etc.

3-Keep copies of any documentation: Copies of letters, documents or emails suggesting unwanted sexual interactions or threatening or intimidating you for sexual favours in return should be kept as evidence.

4-Record it: If possible keep secret recordings of would be harassers or sexual predators to be used in future as evidence

5- Get Legal Counsel: Seek for legal counsel or help as soon as possible upon being sexually harassed.

6- Get witnesses: Whenever possible seek to inform trusted friends, family members, neighbours and coworkers when sexually harassed. They can stand as eye witnesses when legal action is taken against the perpetrator.


In conclusion, don’t suffer in silence, now that you are better informed and educated about sexual harassment, seek for help from authorities notably law enforcement, civil rights groups as well as NGOs tasked with fighting this hydra-headed monster