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Combating Sexual Harassment and Assault

Sexual harassment and assault are pervasive issues that inflict suffering, constrain individuals' lives, and have repercussions on communities and society as a whole. The outcomes of this study serve as a crucial wake-up call, urging leaders and everyday citizens alike to scrutinize our culture in the United States.


Understanding Sexual Harassment and Assault

Sexual harassment and assault are umbrella terms encompassing various forms of unwanted sexual advances, behaviors, and violations.

Combating Sexual Harassment and Assault
Combating Sexual Harassment and Assault

These acts can occur in different settings, from workplaces and educational institutions to public spaces and homes. Importantly, they are not limited by gender, age, or socioeconomic status; anyone can become a victim.


The Impact Of Sexual Harassment and Assault

The consequences of sexual harassment and assault are profound, affecting victims emotionally, physically, and psychologically. Survivors often experience feelings of shame, guilt, anxiety, and depression. These traumatic experiences can lead to long-term mental health challenges, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


Beyond the individual impact, sexual harassment and assault have wider societal repercussions. They perpetuate gender inequality, create hostile environments, and undermine trust within communities. Moreover, they deter individuals from reporting incidents due to fear, stigma, or disbelief.


This examination should seek to comprehend why such extensive sexual abuse persists, especially against women and historically marginalized communities. Beyond understanding the extent of this problem, it is essential for individuals from all backgrounds to engage in both immediate and long-term, well-coordinated efforts to prevent sexual harassment and assault.


Methodology

This report presents the findings of a nationwide survey conducted online in January 2018. It involved approximately 1,000 women and 1,000 men, all aged 18 and above, using the GfK Knowledge Panel.


This panel is the largest probability-based online sample, representing the general population. The survey was conducted by GfK, a renowned surveying firm, and all data analyses were performed by the UC San Diego Center on Gender Equity and Health.

Combating Sexual Harassment and Assault
Combating Sexual Harassment and Assault

Key Findings


Widespread Impact of Sexual Harassment and Assault:

Sexual harassment and assault are significant issues, particularly affecting women.

  • 81% of women and 43% of men reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment and/or

  • assault in their lifetime.

  • More than 3 in 4 women (77%) and 1 in 3 men (34%) experienced verbal sexual harassment;

  • 1 in 2 women (51%) and 1 in 6 men (17%) were sexually touched in an unwelcome way;

  • Around 4 in 10 women (41%) and 1 in 4 men (22%) experienced cyber sexual harassment;

  • More than 1 in 3 women (34%) and 1 in 10 men (12%) were physically followed;

  • Close to 1 in 3 women (30%) and 1 in 10 men (12%) faced unwanted genital flashing;

  • More than 1 in 4 women (27%) and 1 in 14 men (7%) survived sexual assault.

Sexual Harassment and Assault Disability Status:

Women with disabilities are more likely to report experiencing assault than those without disabilities. This is a notable exception among demographic groups, with 40% of women with disabilities reporting sexual assault compared to 23% of women without disabilities.


Socially Marginalized Men:

Men in socially marginalized groups, including Hispanic men, men with disabilities, those living below the poverty level, gay, and bisexual men, as well as men in rural areas, are more likely to report experiencing sexual harassment and assault compared to other men.


Early Onset:

Sexual harassment and assault often commence at a young age, with 57% of women and 42% of men reporting it occurring by age 17. High school-age, specifically between 14 and 17 years old, was the most frequently reported age for the first experience.


Diverse Locations:

Sexual harassment transpires in various locations, but public spaces were the most frequently cited (66% of women, 19% of men), followed by workplaces (38% of women, 13% of men) and residences (35% of women). For men, schools (14%) were also significant.


Assault Locations:

Sexual assault is predominantly reported in private homes or residences, with women mentioning someone else's residence (15%) and their own residence (11%) as the top locations. For men, it is someone else's residence (2%) and public spaces (2%).


First Experience:

Public spaces were the most frequently reported locations for a person's first experience of sexual harassment and where it occurred most often throughout their life.


Perpetrator Gender:

Sexual harassment and assault are primarily perpetrated by men, with strangers being the most common harassers and known individuals being the most common perpetrators of assault.


Multiple Locations:

Most individuals experience sexual harassment across multiple locations, with 88% of women and 86% of men encountering it in more than one place, often in at least 4-5 different locations.


Emotional Impact:

Sexual harassment and assault lead individuals from all demographics to experience anxiety or depression, and they often prompt changes in daily routines or travel paths. Approximately 31% of women and 20% of men reported feelings of anxiety or depression, while 23% of women and 12% of men altered their routines due to these experiences.


A Call for Cultural Change

Addressing sexual harassment and assault requires a multifaceted approach that begins with changing cultural norms and attitudes. This involves:

  • Education: Implementing comprehensive sex education programs that teach consent, respect, and boundaries from a young age can help challenge harmful stereotypes and promote healthy relationships.

  • Awareness: Encouraging open conversations about sexual harassment and assault can help break the silence.

  • Support Services: Access to counseling, legal aid, and support groups is crucial for survivors. These services help victims heal and seek justice.

  • Prevention: Creating safe environments through workplace policies, campus initiatives, and public awareness campaigns is essential. Organizations should establish clear reporting mechanisms and consequences for perpetrators.


Sexual Harassment and Assault Legal Measures

Laws play a vital role in combatting sexual harassment and assault. Legal measures can include:

  • Criminal Prosecution: Perpetrators must be held accountable for their actions. Criminal charges and penalties act as deterrents and ensure justice for victims.

  • Civil Remedies: Victims can pursue civil lawsuits against perpetrators, seeking compensation for damages incurred.

  • Legislation: Governments should enact and enforce legislation that protects individuals from harassment and assault, ensures equal treatment under the law, and supports survivors.

Sexual harassment and assault are deeply entrenched issues that demand urgent attention and collective action. By fostering a culture of respect, providing support for survivors, and implementing legal measures, we can work towards a future where everyone is safe from these traumatic experiences. It is a challenge that requires society as a whole to confront and eradicate this pervasive problem, making the world a safer and more equitable place for all.


Violence Prevention and Self Defense Resources

The goal of the Center for Violence Prevention and Self Defense is to stop violence by educating at-risk people and empower them with the skills needed to protect themselves both online and live training. CVPSD's live training is available to people of all ages in New Jersey including children, adults and the elderly.


Live conceptual seminars teach the origins of violence and how to assess risk and set boundaries for healthy relationships. Experiential classes teach hands-on interpersonal skills and strategies to prevent and stop assault.

The Center for Violence Prevention and Self Defense reaches individuals and communities through partnerships with schools and other nonprofits, community groups, as well as classes for the public.

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