Study Shows Insidious Workplace Sexual Harassment


Sexual harassment is sometimes oversimplified in the media. They make it seem that it entails a male supervisor making overt advances on female reports. 

But—sexual harassment includes a wide range of behaviors and acts. Those who took part in a recent study by Resume Now described their experiences with sexual harassment. The study of over 780 American workers shows that sexual harassment in the workplace is all too pervasive. 

In fact, 55% of respondents said they’d experienced sexual harassment at work, with this gender breakdown: 

  • 62% women 
  • 48% men 

And, the “smack on the butt” type of sexual harassment that you see in shows isn’t the most common. It’s much more insidious than that. 

The survey delved into all the aspects of sexual harassment, including: 

  • Who experienced it and who perpetrated it
  • What had occurred 
  • What symptoms were caused by it 
  • What the outcomes were from complaints

Workplace Sexual Harassment Culprits

Bosses have “gotten the memo” from the #MeToo movement. They’re no longer the #1 perps of sexual harassment, like in the movies. 

The survey takers overwhelmingly chose “a colleague” as the person who’d crossed the line. 

Half said that a colleague had sexually harassed them. After that, the survey takers named others who’d subjected them to sexual harassment: 

  • 40%—Senior employee
  • 24%—Customer
  • 24%—Boss
  • 17%—C-suite executive
  • 6%—Someone I supervise
  • 3%—Other 

The study asked those who said they’d been sexually harassed to identify what they’d suffered. 

What They Endured

The forms of sexual harassment varied, but the most commonplace were “sexual comments and innuendos.”

The five most common sexual harassment actions that the survey takers had experienced: 

  • 43%—General sexual comments or innuendos
  • 43% —Sexual comments about the body 
  • 33%—Somone using demeaning names (girl, hunk, doll, boy, baby, honey, etc.)
  • 33%—Whistling, catcalls
  • 30%—Work topics turning into sexual topics

Shockingly, 10% of women and 4% of men said they’d experienced “actual or attempted rape or sexual assault” at work. That’s 79 women and 31 men. 

As one woman reported: 

“Always trying to hug me, giving me gifts, making sexual comments. Even a marriage proposal. I quit my job.” 

Victims suffer debilitating effects from sexual harassment. 

The Aftermath 

The employees who’d experienced sexual harassment suffered a wide variety of physical and mental symptoms. 

  • 79% said sexual harassment had “affected their physical and/or psychological well-being.” 

The top symptom from both men and women? 

Emotional exhaustion. 

The second most common symptom was different for women and men. 

  • 36% of women experienced anxiety, whereas 36% of men had headaches.

Sadly, 17% had experienced Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, (PTSD), due to the sexual harassment they faced. 

Having to cope with a sexual harasser is bad enough, but having to gain the courage to make a complaint adds to their stress.

Reported Sexual Harassment Outcomes

The study had some encouraging data come out of it: 67% of the respondents had reported the sexual harassment they’d experienced. 

Women reported it a little less than men: 66% vs. 70%. 

“How much do you agree or disagree with the following statement: I felt my complaint of sexual harassment was taken seriously?”

  • 25%—Neutral
  • 25%—Agree
  • 24%—Disagree
  • 22%—Strongly Agree
  • 4%—Strongly Disagree

There was a slight difference between men and women, with 30% of women disagreeing with the statement compared to 26% of men. 

Unfortunately, too many of those who came forth and reported the sexual harassment had been retaliated against.

  • 1 out of 2 women said they’d faced retaliation
  • 66% of men said they’d been retaliated against
  • 53% said they’d been fired after reporting

In Conclusion

The alarming results from the study of 785 American employees show that sexual harassment is rampant. It highlights also that men are facing sexual harassment, though not as often as women.

The attitudes expressed in the article show that education is necessary to combat this issue. When more than a quarter agreeing with these statements:

“It’s okay to flirt with someone at work even if they aren’t interested,” 

“Women are being too sensitive about the ‘sexual harassment’ topic” 

A lot of work needs to be done. 

Companies—take note and implement training to avoid the risk of a hostile work environment.

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