Preventing sexual harassment in the workplace should be a priority at every company, yet it continues to happen at alarming rates. Sexual assault covers a wide variety of unwanted sexual contact and behavior that occurs without the victim’s explicit consent. Employers need to know the patterns and statistics around sexual assault at work to prevent it. Instances of workplace sexual assault often go unreported because victims are led to feel shameful about what happened, even though it is never their fault. An empathetic legal advocate can help victims voice their concerns after an act has been committed, but workplaces should do better at preventing them in the first place. This article will explore the following topics to help employers understand workplace sexual assault:
- Defining sexual assault
- Who commits sexual assault
- Workplace sexual assault
- Workplace sexual assault statistics
- What employers should do
Defining Sexual Assault & Sexual Harassment
Sexual assault is a broad term used to describe any sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the victim’s explicit consent. Some examples of sexual assault include rape or attempted rape, unwanted sexual touching, forcing a victim to perform sexual acts, or penetrating the victim’s body. In addition to workplace sexual assault, there is also workplace sexual harassment. This involves any unwelcome behavior in inappropriate sexual remarks, unwelcome behavior in the form of sexual advances, and requests for sexual favors. The two types of sexual harassment that could play out in the workplace are quid pro quo (an exchange of sexual services) and a hostile working environment (any action that creates an intimidating atmosphere for the person who experiences sexual harassment).
Who Commits Sexual Assault
Around eight out of ten sexual assaults are committed by perpetrators who know their victim, especially in acquaintance rape or intimate partner sexual violence. “Date rape” is another term for acquaintance rape, but this form of sexual assault is not limited to a date or a partner. It could be a supervisor, a colleague, a vendor, coworker, or colleague’s significant other. A lesser percentage of sexual assaults occur by someone unknown.
Sexual assault in the workplace can also be through coercion. Threats of job loss, demotion, or any other adverse employment action in order to coerce the survivor to submit to sexual acts are also unlawful. Even if you didn’t fight the behavior, the conduct by a supervisor or leader may still be considered sexual assault and you may be able to hold the perpetrator and your employer accountable.
Workplace Sexual Assault
Workplace sexual assault or harassment is a huge problem, especially in the United States. It can take a toll on people’s personal lives and mental health, not to mention lost productivity and money loss for the company. The recent #MeToo movement has helped to raise awareness against sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. It has a severe impact on women, who are much more impacted than men. Companies can help prevent this kind of behavior in the workplace by implementing training, updating their anti-harassment policy, discouraging any misconduct, and limiting alcoholic beverages at any social gatherings. Victims and survivors can seek restorative justice to address the workplace’s problems and ensure others don’t experience the same unlawful behavior. Until companies understand how detrimental workplace assault can be, change won’t happen.
Workplace Sexual Assault & Sex Harassment Statistics
To get a better idea of the frequency of sexual assault and harassment in the workplace, you can look at the statistics. They tell a story of the high rate of instances that occur and how companies (and men, since they are most often the perpetrator) fail to get it under control. Alternative dispute resolution can settle some disputes without going to court, but often it requires moving forward with traditional litigation. Remember that harassment doesn’t have to be physical, either. Sexual remarks or verbal harassment can be just as offensive and hurtful as physical actions. Here is a list of workplace sexual assault statistics to look through, organized by specific categories surrounding the topic.
Acts Against Women
- Women have a 60% chance of experiencing harassment.
- 77% of women were verbally harassed, while 51% of women were touched without permission.
- 81% of women had experienced some form of sexual harassment in their lifetime.
- 90% of female restaurant workers experience sexual harassment.
Effects of Harassment
- 12% of all sexual harassment cases occur on a daily or weekly basis.
- Victims of abuse are 6.5 times more likely to change professions.
- 50% of women and 64% of men who were victims of sexual harassment agreed that it hurt their careers.
- 31% of all victims felt depressed and anxious after experiencing sexual harassment or assault.
- Only 1% of sexually harassed victims confronted their harassers.
- 68% of LGBT workers have experienced sexual harassment at work.
- Seven in ten people believe that companies are not taking sexual harassment seriously.
- Six in ten women do not file a harassment complaint, often due to fear of retaliation.
- 56% of men believe abusers are not punished when an incident occurs.
- The average cost due to productivity loss amounts to $22,500 per person.
- Only 25% of women who were victims of sexual harassment at work say they could easily report the incident to their employers.
- 34% of employees do not truly grasp and identify behavior that leads to a hostile working environment.
- 56% of men believe that reported workplace sexual harassment goes unpunished.
- 20% of companies have made an effort to create specific strategies to address sexual harassment issues.
What Employers Should Do
Victims of workplace sexual assault or harassment might choose to work with an advocate specializing in workplace conflicts. Systemic change needs to happen within the government and workplaces to create real change. Victims of workplace sexual assault or sexual harassment should feel comfortable and safe coming forward after being harmed, whether physically or verbally. Employers should be aware of the kind of abuse and harassment that can occur at work and do everything they can to prevent it from happening. Hosting training, creating a strict anti-harassment policy, devising a zero tolerance policiy and offering safe spaces for victims to report is just the beginning.
If you or someone you know is experiencing sexual assault, find help through RAINN or contact the confidential and free National Sexual Assault hotline at 800-656-HOPE.