Sexual harassment is defined by Roberson and Wallace (2015) as the overall umbrella under which various manners of sexual violence occurs. It is a behavior of demanding for unwelcome sexual favors. The victim is compelled to submit under various conditions such as employment decisions affecting the individual. The workplace sets the stage for the frequent abuse of sexual harassment in the form of demands for sexual favors and in return the individual is granted continued employment.
Sexual harassment occurs commonly in the United States with nine out of every ten women reporting cases where they have felt sexually harassed. The unordinary hug, sexual joke, suggestive gestures, a forced kiss, or an unorthodox comment regarding the victim’s physical appearance is sexual harassment as long as it’s not welcomed (Roberson, & Wallace, 2015). Although most victims of sexual harassment are female in gender, there are more than several cases of men being targets of sexual harassment as well.
According to Roberson and Wallace (2015), sexual harassment can be classified as hostile environment harassment or quid pro quo harassment. When an agent or employer uses the power their position holds to induce a female employee to grant them sexual favors, then that is classified as quid pro quo harassment. Hostile environment harassment, on the other hand, happens when a hostile working environment is created out of unwelcomed sexual conduct such as a series of episodes of harassment. It is important to note that the victim might welcome harassment out of fear of losing out on a job or a promotion.
A survey conducted in 1980 by Sandra Tangri, Leanor Johnson, and Martha Burt came up with the sociocultural model to explain sexual harassment at the workplace (Roberson & Wallace, 2015). The sociocultural model suggests that sexual harassment only occurs because of the male gender maintaining power positions in society. According to this theory, sexual harassment is made possible by patriarchy, and the dominance men enjoy through the benefit awards, employment status, and influence in a company. Sexual harassment is not restricted solely to the workplace as it occurs in colleges too with certain professors using their positions to get sexual favors from students.
Roberson and Wallace (2015) state that victims of sexual harassment tend to feel helpless when they are involved with the criminal justice system and that is where victim advocates come in to assist victims of sexual harassment deal with how they interact with society. Victim advocates are professionals trained to support victims of crime, and some of their responsibilities include helping victims with information on how to go about managing a situation, providing counseling as well as emotional support such as through escorting victims to court hearings.
One aspect that the victim advocates should prioritize is how to deal and communicate with the public media. The media can assist or interfere with the victim’s worldview after that or their recovery process. This is because the news anchors and the newspapers are bound to publish information into private aspects of the victim’s life that the victim would have preferred to remain confidential (Roberson and Wallace, 2015). Victims and victim advocates should, therefore, structure a relationship with the media to have some control over the information that gets out. Social media is also an avenue that needs monitoring.
Due to the ability of media to communicate with a large community of people, it is essential for victims to understand how media can both positively and negatively work in their favor. It is vital for victims to exercise precaution when communicating on social media as sexual harassment cases are highly sensitive. The use of social media technologies makes it easy for information to spread fast and some of the information might not be accurate. The power of social media is evident as recently highlighted with the #metoo online movement against sexual harassment as articulated by Mendes, Ringrose, and Keller (2018). The campaign went viral with various female public figures using it to testify personal incidents of sexual harassment.
Understanding how the justice system works in the United States is important for victims although it might prove too complicated to comprehend in the initial stages. Due to the civil nature of sexual harassment cases, the civil law system takes civil action towards offenders of sexual harassment. After filing a complaint, the defendant is allowed the freedom to counterclaim or respond to the complaint by either agreeing to or denying the charges (Roberson and Wallace, 2015). If the case is not motioned out or both parties agree to a settlement, the case goes to trial after which a verdict is declared. If the defendant is found guilty by the jury, the defendant is ordered by the court to pay damages to the victim.
As a victim, I would be livid in having to interact with the offender. If it occurs in the workplace, I’d have to quit and get another job as I’m confident that the work environment would prove to be hostile. I would not be in the proper frame of mind to continue working at a place where I’ve felt victimized in regards to sexual harassment. My attitude towards the justice system would depend on the outcome of the verdict. If the jury were to rule in my favor, then I would have faith that the justice system does work. However, if they were to rule against me, despite compelling evidence supporting my case, then I would have little faith in the system. As per my relationship with friends and family, I would not feel any indifference interacting with them.
- Mendes, K., Ringrose, J., & Keller, J. (2018). # MeToo and the promise and pitfalls of challenging rape culture through digital feminist activism.’European Journal of Women’s Studies,’25(2), 236-246.
- Wallace, H., & Roberson, C. (2015). Victimology: Legal, psychological, and social perspectives (4th Ed.).