This is a bit sad, but hardly unexpected.
If you've been around the block, you've probably seen or experienced sexual harassment in one form or another. It can be relatively subtle (like that guy who keeps leering at women's breasts during meetings) or much more blatant (like the recently ousted mayor of San Diego who groped at his underlings).
You know what it is, but would you report it? The answer is usually no.
But what's surprising is that many of us delude ourselves into thinking that we would take action—and hence take a very harsh view of victims of sexual harassment who don't report it.
This is a form of "double victimization" according to researchers from the University of Utah, Brigham Young University, and Columbia University. The Harvard Business Review blog summarizes the finding:
In an experiment, 83% of women said they would confront a job interviewer who asked such sexually harassing questions as “Do you have a boyfriend?” And the more confrontation they predicted for themselves, the greater their contempt for women who didn’t protest. Yet past research shows that most candidates who face such harassment do nothing to protest.
I find it incredible that 83 percent of women would think that they would do the "right" thing. Are women really that confident these days—or are we being self-righteous?
The research points to self-righteousness. But even worse is how this attitude leads us to judge victims of harassment who don't take action. Kristina Diekmann, one of the report's authors, says to University of Utah :
Because people mis-predict that they would take action against the harasser, they condemn the victim who remains passive and socially distance themselves from that victim. So, sexual harassment victims are double-victimized, once by their harasser, and twice by their colleagues who condemn them for remaining passive.The consequence is that the victim is shunned by co-workers, loses out on work opportunities, and is given negative performance reviews.
Of course, the classic example of this double victimization is Anita Hill. Here's how University of Utah describes that part of the study:
The Anita Hill case offers a classic example of a passive victim. Hill’s claims of repeated sexual harassment by Clarence Thomas during his U.S. Supreme Court confirmation hearings in 1991, and her own perpetual inaction at the time of the alleged events, led to public suspicion and condemnation of Hill among many observers.
Since those hearings, sexual harassment has officially become part of the corporate no-no list. But we all know it still goes on. What's more, we still expect victims to bravely stand up to bad behavior—even though we wouldn't do it ourselves, lest we get scrutinized and stigmatized as some sort of troublemaker.
Not much to show after 20 years, is it?
Related post: Tell Your Daughter About Anita.
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