Analysis of Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment is one of the biggest problems facing our
schools and businesses today. A week rarely goes by without a
reminder of the pervasiveness of sexual harassment as a social
problem. Sexual harassment is a growing problem in the government
agencies, schools, and the corporations of the world; however, many
corporations are now adopting new anti-harassment policies.(Conta)
The definition of sexual harassment is any unwanted or
inappropriate sexual attention. That includes touching, looks,
comments, or gestures. A key part of sexual harassment is that it is
one sided and unwanted. There is a great difference between sexual
harassment and romance or friendship, since those are mutual feelings
of two people. Often sexual harassment makes the victim feel guilty,
but it is important for the victim to remember that it is not their
fault, the fault lies totally on the person who is the harasser.
Many times fear is involved in sexual harassment because it
isn't about physical attraction, it's about power. In fact, many
sexual harassment incidents take place when one person is in a
position of power over the other; or when a woman has an untraditional
job such as a police officer, factory worker, business executive, or
any other traditionally male job. Typical victims of harassment are
young, single, college-educated, members of a minority racial or
ethnic group (if male), in a trainee position (or office/ clerical
positions if male), or have an immediate supervisor of the opposite
sex. (Cq researcher 542)
Presently, it is hard for courts and others to decide when
sexual harassment has taken place because the definition of sexual
harassment is much too broad. Clearing up the legal definition of
sexual harassment would discourage and punish harassers and bring
comfort to the victims. Here are some points to remember in deciding
when sexual harassment takes place: Sexual harassment is one-sided and
* It is about power and not attraction.
* It happens over and over again.
* It gets worse.
* Subtle sexual behavior is sometimes socially acceptable, but some
would consider it offensive and want it stopped.
* Moderate sexual behavior is not socially acceptable, reasonable
people would want it stopped.
* Severe sexual behavior is never acceptable. (Swisher 28)
Sexual harassment is a major problem in public schools,
colleges, and universities. Surveys on college campuses show the
number of respondents reporting to have been sexually harassed
ranging from 40-70 percent. Only two percent of campus harassment
cases involve a professor demanding sex in return for a good grade.
Most cases involve male and female students.
In public schools current sexual harassment definitions are
inappropriate, since bad sexual behavior of today's children isn't
sexual harassment, but it is a reflection of the vulgar, violent, and
the sexually explicit nature of our media and culture. When little
six-year-old children get suspended from school for kissing girls on
the cheek, it is not an example of sexual harassment but of political
correctness gone wild.
Sexual harassment is still a big problem in schools and
every school district in Washington now has an antiharassment policy.
"Junior high or middle school has the biggest problem with sexual
harassment mainly because of their immaturity and out-of-control
hormones". Says Viki Simmons of the YWCA. "Many times in high
school, students don't think anything about it when harassment
happens, but schools are now cracking down on it". (Simmons interview)
In the business world employers are now on notice that sexual
harassment will no longer be tolerated in the workplace. Claims
brought against alleged harassers include wrongful termination,
invasion of privacy, violation of due process and free speech rights,
defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Sexual harassment usually happens to women in low-paying
jobs, or women that have to have a job in order to support themselves
and children. If sexual harassment happens at work, write down a
detailed description of what took place, so that it is well recorded
and you don't have to think back to the incident. You should keep a
note pad handy for this purpose, or write it on a napkin to help you
remember. You should write:
* When it happened
* Where it happened
* What time it happened
* What actually took place and what the offender said
* How you felt
* The names of any witnesses
Another way to do this is to write a letter to the harasser.
Be sure to keep a copy. Tell the person clearly in the letter that his
behavior toward you is unwanted. Tell the person that he will be
reported if the behavior doesn't stop (Kolbert). According to the
research group Catalyst, recent studies have found that 40 percent to
60 percent of woman say they have been harassed sometime in their
Employers have a duty to investigate allegations of sexual
harassment, and their employees have a legitimate interest in knowing
what activities could result in their termination. Ever clearer
definitions of sexual harassment are being implemented by more and
more corporations around the country. As this happens, an
increasing number of companies are searching for new ways of
protecting themselves against allegations, adopting their own anti-
harassment policies to combat this growing problem.
CEO's should do a variety of things to stop sexual harassment
in the work place. The most important thing is senior management makes
it clear to workers that harassment in any form won't be tolerated.
If top managers don' take the issues seriously, employees won't
either. Managers must also understand they are responsible for their
Companies need an explicit written policy on sexual
harassment that is widely available in the workplace. Most
consultants advise companies to do more than just post the policy on
bulletin boards. They should distribute it company wide, repeatedly.
Copies should be included in new employee orientation packets.
Employees should have clear definitions of what sexual harassment is
Many companies are now offering employee training sessions on
sexual harassment, and many say that follow up training is a good
idea. Training programs should include all employees, rather than just
managers. The tone should be gender neutral and avoid heavy
discussions on male harassment that might cause some resentment among
the male employees. Many times programs aren't effective because they
spend a lot of time just attacking men and not the crime.
Companies need a good system to deal with complaints. A
clear process for handling complaints shows that a company takes them
seriously. Until 1991 it was harder for woman to make allegations of
sexual harassment, since woman felt like there was nothing that they
could do about it. But the highly publicized hearings of Clarence
Thomas and Anita Hill in 1991 changed everything.
During the fall of 1991, the subject of sexual harassment
grabbed news headlines. Everyone began discussing this issue and
emotions ran high. Judge Clarence Thomas was nominated to be a Supreme
Court Justice, which is America's highest court, and Supreme Court
Justices have their jobs for life. They cannot be fired. Before a
person can be made a Justice, he or she must be questioned and
Judge Thomas was ounce the head of a U.S. agency called the
EEOC. The EEOC makes sure everyone is treated fairly when applying
for a job. It also enforces laws against sexual harassment. Anita
Hill is a law professor who worked with Judge Thomas at the EEOC many
years ago. A few weeks into the Congressional Questioning she came
forward and accused Thomas of sexual harassment. She claimed that he
used to constantly ask her for dates and spoke to her about
pornographic films he had seen. Anita Hill said that she was deeply
offended by these remarks but felt that she could not complain.
Clarence Thomas was her boss, and she thought that her career could be
in trouble if she made a fuss.
Anita Hill was a very believable witness. But Judge Thomas
denied her charges in the strongest possible terms. Who was telling
the truth? The country was divided. But the issue was being
discussed everywhere. Women from all across the nation told of their
experiences with sexual harassment. And many men admitted being
insensitive to this issue.
Finally, the senate voted to approve Judge Thomas. But the
vote was close. Many senators had doubts about Thomas's character.
Others did not the, Thomas's career should be destroyed because of one
person's story. They said there was not enough evidence to prove
there was wrongdoing. In the end, everyone agreed that sexual
harassment is a serious problem everyone must become more sensitive
to. (Kolbert pg 3)
It's important to know that men have trouble too. Women are
not the only victims of sexual harassment. More and more men are
being harassed in the workplace, classrooms, and locker rooms.
Whoever is in the position of power tends to be the harasser. Men can
be victims of both woman and other men
Sexual harassment is very wide spread, but there are ways of
avoiding it, such as: Keeping everything strictly on a business level.
If working in the same room as the harasser, create a barrier between
the two work stations with a desk or file cabinet, etc. Do not ask for
personal favors or special treatment from the harasser so that he
won't feel he is owed anything. Do not talk about anything personal.
Sexual harassment is always wrong. No one deserves it. And
it is always hurtful to the victim. Sexual harassment is a major
social problem facing government agencies, schools, and businesses
today, but if everyone confronts this problem, men and women would be
able to work better together at school and at work, and men and women
would be able to build less stressful relationships