Sexual harassment is often not a one-time affair

taniya talukda, TNN | Jun 1, 2013, 12.00 AM IST

It wasn't very long ago that Phaneesh Murthy was involved in a case of sexual harassment, something he is being alleged to have committed again. And now, news comes in that a Bangalore-based professor at a prestigious biz school has been asked to step down owing to sexual misconduct.

There are several examples of people who are said to repeatedly seek sexual favours at the workplace. Former US President Bill Clinton was alleged to have sexually harassed state employeePaula Jones, when he was the Governor of Arkansas. Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was accused of attempted rape by a hotel maid in 2011; he later faced accusations of sexually abusing a young French writer. DesignerAnand Jon was also convicted of several counts of sexual assault.

It’s a Personality thing 

Sunil Goel, director of an executive search company says, "Individual characteristics do not change much over time; they may remain hidden for a while. These incidents generally don't happen in peer groups and are largely incidents that are character-driven. Most people don't talk about them because, most of the time, they are consensual; but they do when a conflict arises between the people involved." 

Priya Chetty Rajgopal,

VP at a human resource firm, adds, "There are two ways to look at it. First, the person might be genuinely committed to the relationship; and the second is infallibility, in which the person is so used to a position of advantage that he thinks he can get away with anything, and he repeats the offence."

Gotten caught? so what?

Media professional Aarti Mohan says power and influence gives men in these positions the immunity and chance to exploit women as most women are either their subordinates or seen to be competitively weaker. "Getting caught isn't the end of the world for them because companies and organizations do not weigh the question of moral character from a past record of sexual harassment as seriously as credit theft or money laundering," adds Aarti. 

Taking advantage

Psychologist Vikram Prabhu says most cases of alleged sexual misconduct stem from, "consensual romantic relationships gone sour. Some people give into sexual favours for their careers, but the other person thinks it's consensual. The meaning of sexual harassment has also changed. Sharing jokes with a sexual connotation also constitutes sexual harassment."