One in three women report being sexually harassed on the job in America. People started taking sexual harassment seriously when Anita Hill accused Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment a little more than two decades ago, but only 3% of women who are sexually harassed file a formal complaint because although they want to leave, they need the income from their jobs.
Many people assume that sexual harassment is a result of a man’s sexual interest in a female employee. It’s often assumed that the man is inept or awkward or that the woman is lying or exaggerating. However, most sexual harassment is actually about power, rather than sex. Only about a quarter of sexual harassment cases are simply seductions gone awry, and very few are quid pro quo harassment cases, in which the man asks for a sexual favor in exchange for a promotion or for not firing the woman.
Sexual harassment is a way to keep women in their place and devalue a woman’s contribution in the workplace. Calling attention to a female worker’s sexuality is a way for someone with greater power to make her vulnerable. Often, women who are sexually harassed blame themselves. Most of the time, the people doing the harassing are men, but sometimes women in positions of power are accused of sexual harassment as well.