Sexual harassment and violence have been on the increase all over the world. It can be described as any unwanted sexual act or activity and includes but not limited to rape, sexual harassment, and assault. Sexual harassment can either be physical or even psychological. Most people believe that sexual violence and harassment only affect the female gender, but that is not the case. Men, too, suffer from sexual violence and harassment. However, the female gender is more prone to the practice as more female cases of sexual harassment are reported compared to male cases. This paper will discuss the issue of sexual harassment and violence. It will discuss the main causes of such harassment and violence, focusing on the female gender. It will also give recommendations that will act as solutions to solve sexual violence and harassment.
Background of the Issue
According to the World Health Organization, sexual harassment and violence encompass anything from; verbal sexual conduct, forced sexual intercourse, coercing to perform sexual acts, and sexual activities that result from societal pressures and intimidation through physical force. It encompasses activities such as rape within marriages and relationships and that rape by strangers or acquaintances. Rape can be defined as any form of sexual activity in which the victim does not consent to the proprietor. The issue affects all genders and all ages.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 37% of the total violent victimization was associated with rape, robbery, aggravated assault, and sexual assault. The self-reported incidences of sexual assault or rape doubled from the year 2017 to 2018. A survey carried out by the organization showed that over 734,630 individuals had been raped (attempted, threatened, or completed) in the United States in 2018. There is also a decline in the number of reports made to the police about sexual assault. In 2017, 40 percent of the cases of rape were reported to the authority. However, only 25% of the cases were reported in 2018. That shows the issue is growing to become a social norm ad should be dealt with before it goes out of hand.
Many scholars have tried to understand the issue of sexual assault and sexual violence in the world. The vice happens in every aspect of life; it happens at work, schools, in the military, and prisons, among other places. There is no area that such a crime cannot happen. Research by Keplinger et al. (2019) shows the prevalence of sexual violence in the workplace. The researchers carried out research that would identify the types and levels of sexual harassment that women went through when they were at work. The research was based on a recent awareness of the harassment that women often went through when working as professionals. The research was carried out using surveys in 2016 and 2018. Using a power analysis, the researcher found out that they needed a minimum of 380 participants in the research for the research to be credible.
The final sample to be used in the study comprised of 513 women. The first study involved 250 professional women who were given surveys to determine their experiences with sexual harassment and the impact it had on them as women. The participants were paid to participate in the study. A second survey was conducted in 2018 using another Qualtrics panel and included 263 women working as full-time employees in the United States. They ranged between 25- 45 years. In the two surveys, the participants were requested to state whether they experienced either of the three types of sexual harassments, i.e., gender-related harassments, sexual coercion, and unwanted sexual attention.
The study results showed that the most common type of sexual harassment was gender harassment, followed by unwanted sexual attention. Sexual coercion was the least common. The study results showed that 87% of the women in the study experienced sexual harassment in their careers. Fewer women reported having been sexually coerced in the workplace. A study in 2016 showed that 25% of the women claimed to be sexually coerced in the workplace. The number declined in 2018, with only 16% stating that they were sexually coerced. The study shows the severity of sexual harassment in the workplace and the struggles that female professionals have. Sexual Harassment in the workplace happens to men, too, but it is not a common thing.
Fitzgerald & Cortina (2018) discuss the issue of sexual violence in work organizations. Their article talks of how the context of sexual harassment has changed over the years and how it differs from what people originally thought in the 1990s and early 2000s. The authors indicate how women and girls are sexually harassed in every aspect of their lives. They show how gender is sexually harassed I their workplaces and universities, by strangers in public, by landlords in their estates, by peers in schools, by their tutors or instructors, and even female inmates by their correctional officers.
The authors show how sexual harassment goes up the age ladder from when females are in their elementary schools to even happen in elderly homes. The authors attribute the increase of such violence and harassment to the increase in technology that has made it possible. Cell phones, video games, and internet applications such as dating sites have created new avenues for sexual harassment. The authors also attribute the increase of such harassment and violence to the youth culture’s pervasive secularization.
The research by Aycock et al. (2019) puts sexual harassment in the school context. According to the researchers, the levels of sexual harassment in schools, especially those that are dominated by males, are high. Their study is based on physics, which is more dominated by males than any other science. The researchers examine the occurrences of sexual harassment and the impact that such harassment has on women who are studying science. The study involved a survey of undergraduate women who attended a conference for undergraduate women in physics. The survey results showed that at least 74.3% of the women who participated in the study had experienced some form of sexual harassment. The study involved 455 participants recruited from a large number of undergraduate women in physics in the United States.
The researchers found out that certain forms of sexual harassment resulted in a negative attitude in the victims and a negative sense of belonging in the field. All forms of sexual harassment were found to have negative consequences on the victims. The violence against women led to their negative attitudes towards STEM fields. The outcome is common in most types of workplaces. Women are often discouraged from pursuing their dreams as they feel that the imposter phenomenon is too much. Most women feel out of place, especially when victimized by the dominant gender in a certain career or school. Such assaults happen in many other schools but often go unreported as the proprietors are often senior officials in the faculty. They create a sense of intimidation in the victims who fear to report due to the implication that they think such reporting would have on their course outcomes.
Sexual harassment and violence also happen in social institutions to portray the highest level of discipline and protection of human dignity. It is common to hear of sexual harassment cases in the military. The military is supposed to act with a high level of dignity and portray socially acceptable behaviors. Through the years, however, military organizations have been known to be great culprits of sexual violence and harassment worldwide. Research by Sadler et al. (2018) brings out the realities of sexual assault and harassment in the military. The researchers show that despite the increasing policies and regulations to curb the vice, sexual harassment is still a norm within the military. The study shows that military leadership is the cause of such behavior and, at the same time, can be the solution to the behavior. Most sexual assaults in the military happen between senior ranking officers and junior ranking officers. The researchers conclude the study with a recommendation of solving the issue of sexual harassment and violence in the military by providing appropriate leadership. The leadership must emphasize accountability at the organizational and at the individual levels.
Employment Situations and High Rates of Sexual Harassment
Various work-related factors affect associated with high risks of the employees being sexually assaulted or harassed in their line of duty. They include the following:
The first factor is working for tips, which affects those employed, especially in the hospitality industry. They include staff working in restaurants, hotels, housekeepers, and many other industries. The workers rely on tips as an alternative source of income. Such professions are often not paid that well, and the tips are higher than even the salary that the employees get. The reliance on the customers’ tips leads to the employees being vulnerable to sexual harassment and approaches from their clients. Sexual harassment could also be from co-workers who have a higher ranking in the industry or even managers and supervisors. Research by Rodriguez et al. (2014) shows how women in the hotel industry often face sexual harassment in the industry. However, the researchers identify that such workers are unable to leave the job and put up with the harassment as the tips they obtain from the job are an important part of their income.
Another factor that promotes sexual assault, harassment, and violence is working in isolated contexts. Female workers who work in careers that make them isolated during their work hours, such as janitorial jobs, are likely to face higher sexual assault rates than others. Domestic care workers, agricultural workers, and hotel workers often report higher instances of sexual harassment.
Isolation in the workplace leaves the individual vulnerable to the actions of the proprietor. The abusers are also encouraged to carry on with the act as there are often no witnesses to testify against them if the victim reports the case. Working in a male-dominated job is a common factor that leads to sexual harassment for women. Women working in male-oriented tasks get harassed most of the time by their male counterparts, who often believe that women are not fit for such jobs. Research by Hegewisch & O’Farrell (2015) shows that, three in ten women working in the construction industry experience sexual harassment. The harassment was based on race, sexual orientation, and age.
Cost of Sexual Harassment and Violence
Sexual harassment has a negative impact on the mental and physical health of an individual. Harassment often leads to depression and signs of PTSD. Individuals exposed to sexual harassment are often in distress, especially if they met the persons who victimized them in the first place. Another effect that sexual harassment has is that it reduces the job opportunity for learning and advancement. Skilled workers advance in the job through guidance from mentors within the organization. Such mentorships are based on trust and a positive relationship between the mentee and mentors. In the instance of sexual harassment, the employee feels restricted to make growth decisions as the employee feels uncomfortable after experiencing harassment.
On the Company
Sexual harassment has legal implications for the company. Sexual harassment victims often sue the proprietors or companies to cater for the damages inflicted by the assault. That affects the fiancés of the company as the costs are often financial settlements. It also leads to increased employee turnover rates within the company. Employees that have been harassed in the workplace sexually often leads to employees wanting to leave the company. Employee turnover is a cost to the company in that it will be expensive to hire new employees to take the posts of the employees that leave the company. Cases of sexual harassment also destroy the company’s image and the perception that people have about the company. That spoils the business relationship between the company and its customers.
The following is recommended to prevent sexual harassment and violence in workplaces, schools, and the community. The first step is to create diverse, inclusive, and respectful environments. Such environments allow the achievement of greater gender and racial equity, therefore preventing the feeling of dominance by one gender. Such dominance leads to the degrading of another gender and often leads to sexual assault, harassment, and violence. The other recommendation is to address the most common form of sexual harassment, which is gender harassment. The community should empower women and show and teach them their rights (Fairchild et al., 2019). The female gender should be encouraged to report cases of sexual harassment that they go through. The community should also enhance policies that deal with sexual violations within the community and ensure that they follow up with such policies.
Improving transparency and accountability in social institutions could reduce cases of sexual harassment and abuse. Leaders and institutions, in general, should be accountable for their members and responsible for any sexual violence or harassment related activities. Institutions should also share and make organizational policies on sexual harassment readily available to all members. The institutions should clearly state the consequences that are likely to follow those that break the set policies. Educating the most vulnerable populations in ways of preventing sexual harassment is another recommendation. Most individuals who find them being harassed could have avoided the situation if they thought it was a risk factor. Educating people on the most common forms of harassment and indicators of such harassment and violence could help prevent such situations (Fairchild et al., 2019).
Organizations should also diffuse hierarchical and dependant relationship between bosses and subordinates. The rank an individual has within the organization often makes them vulnerable to sexual attacks. Women especially face this when they are subordinates in a male-dominated career. They are often sexually harassed by the bosses, giving in due to the fear of losing their jobs. Organizations should consider group-based or committee based mentoring to avoid instances where one subordinate and one superior are left alone. Such reduces the instances of sexual violations within the organization.
Sexual harassment and violence have a negative impact on individuals. It affects both males and females. However, it is predominant in the female gender, especially the professionals that venture into male-dominated careers. Sexual harassment and violence happen at all levels of society and in all forms of social institutions. It happens at work, in schools, when with peers, and even in the military, as seen in the literature review. SV has an impact on the victims and also on the organizations involved. It creates mental and psychological trauma to individuals and also bars them from achieving their goals. To prevent such occurrences, organizations should create diverse and respectful environments for all their members. They should also increase the levels of transparency and accountability and also diffuse hierarchical and dependant relationships. Applying the recommendations would reduce if not eliminate cases of sexual harassment and violence within the community.