With the advent of the #MeToo movement and the international attention it has garnered, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that sexual harassment in the workplace is alarmingly prevalent. But what has received less attention, is how many victims of this heinous behavior have been subjected to retaliatory treatment for speaking out. The narrative concentrates primarily on the formerly silent victims – those who have been afraid to speak out for fear of not being believed, ostracization, and career suicide. What has received less coverage is those who did speak out and were almost immediately silenced by those in power.
Sexual Harassment Stats
Statistics from a wide range of polls demonstrate the pervasiveness of sexual harassment across every industry. A CNBC All-America Survey revealed that approximately 1 in 5 U.S. workers have experienced this form of workplace harassment. Demographic breakdowns in this poll show that men express a lower incidence rate – 1 in 10 – while women raise the rate to more than 1 in 4.
When broken down by age groups, there may be some uplifting news in where we’re heading. Older participants, in the 50 to 64 age range, report a higher rate of 1 in 4. Younger workers, aged 18 to 34 years, report a lower rate of 16 percent. Perhaps this demonstrates a change that shows sexual harassment in on the decline with the younger generation. Some are less optimistic though, positing that the disparity between the older and younger generations may merely be the result of time and experience. Older workers have been in the workforce longer, and therefore, have had more time to be exposed to sexual harassment. This viewpoint offers the possibility that those younger employees will eventually experience a higher incidence of this harassment in time.
A 2016 report by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provides some numbers that further muddy the waters. The range of women who have reported sexual harassment in the workplace is substantial – between 25 and 85 percent of female workers. This study spotlights some industries that reflect a higher incidence of sexual harassment. Not surprisingly, these sectors are male dominated and/or service-based. Construction workers, servers, hotel cleaners, and farm workers are notable examples.
In the EEOC report, another disturbing statistic cropped up – that of retaliatory behavior. A review of “one 2003 study found that 75% of employees who spoke out against workplace mistreatment faced some form of retaliation.” This speaks to the problem of the “one lone voice” that calls out misconduct. In cases of sexual harassment, it often has been a case of strength in numbers. These stats offer insight into why underreporting of this behavior is such a problem. Victims worry that they will be punished for accusing their offender. Disbelief, ridicule, and adverse career consequences are all realistic fears.
A Changing Mindset
While the statistics regarding sexual harassment are less than uplifting, this situation does seem to be changing for the better. Harkening back to that burgeoning #MeToo movement, victims of sexual harassment, past and present, are finally experiencing something new — belief. There’s a sea change occurring. A recent poll reflects this new mindset, indicating that a clear majority of Americans recognize that sexual harassment is a very real problem.
If you are dealing with sexual harassment in your place of business, now is the time to speak out. The knowledgeable, compassionate Sexual Harassment attorneys of Castronovo & McKinney have your back. Contact us to discuss your case.