Des Moines, IA- When discussing sexual harassment, the subject of what causes this behavior, whether it in the workplace or in the street, inevitably comes up. What motivates a person to sexually harass another is hard to decipher. Some instances may be simple miscommunications between two people while other instances are

In a recent survey of Saudi Arabians, 80 percent of respondents said flirting is behind the rampant sexual harassment occurring in the country, according to the Los Angeles Times. Feminists said that it wasn’t uncommon for men in their country to blame women for their mistreatment.

This sort of attitude still is not exclusive to Muslim countries, there are plenty of Westerners who have a similar attitude. That attitude that flirting, dressing provocatively or simply walking down the street is justification for unwanted sexual comments or touching. There is this notion that the victims are too sensitive to sexual overtures and comments, the victims—it happens to men, too– don’t know how to take a joke or are just trying to get revenge on a coworker.

Flirting is a normal part of life, it’s a way to meet new people and prospective mates. When both parties are open to flirting it can be a bit of harmless fun and is even acceptable in the workplace. There is nothing wrong with two people who work together to flirt and doesn’t necessarily constitute sexual harassment.

Some have this notion that protecting workers from sexual harassment is just a means to ban people from complementing their coworkers for their appearance or to them from flirting with one another. This couldn’t be further from the truth, since the phrase itself, “sexual harassment,” indicates the issue goes far beyond some harmless fun or compliments.

By definition, harassment is aggressive pressure, intimidation or persecution. The Law Dictionary defines harassment as “the act of systematic and/or continued unwanted and annoying actions of one party or a group, including threats and demands.”

From a legal stand point, a person who complains about sexual harassment must be able to prove the behavior was unwanted, was repeated and the harasser ignored their requests they stop. If flirting is between two consenting coworkers, then it’s not sexual harassment. It becomes sexual harassment when the flirting continues after one person asks for it to stop, and interactions between two parties devolve into repeated lewd and inappropriate comments, touching and solicitations for sex.

Sexual harassment goes far beyond flirting, it is abusive behavior that can have a number of adverse effects on the victim’s mental and physical health. It also has a detrimental impact on the workplace, allowing harassment to persist leads to high turnover, and decreased job satisfaction. It can also be costly for an employer if they fail to stop the behavior.

If you are being sexually harassed and your employer is has not taken the appropriate steps to stop it, you can turn to a sexual harassment attorney to determine which steps you need to take, and decide whether you need to file a civil suit.