The Real Reasons Women Don’t Report Sexual Harassment

Even with a good company culture, most women never report sexual harassment. Why? The odds are stacked against them.

Earlier this year, I found myself in the middle of the Women’s March on Washington, darkly joking with two women in their fifties I had never met before, about how the three of us had all faced sexual harassment in our careers.

Only one of us had ever gone to human resources to complain.

She had done it recently, saying that she felt confident about reporting it, in part because of her position in the company. She was very senior and well respected; she knew that addressing it wouldn’t present any issues for her. Ultimately the situation was mediated and her harasser was no longer a problem. When I asked the other woman why she hadn’t done anything about it, she said she thought she could handle it herself, and didn’t want to deal with the potential blowback. A lot of women feel that way.

I have faced inappropriate sexual advances multiple times in my work history. When I graduated from college, I worked for a restaurant owner who thought it permissible to text me requests to wear certain outfits during my shift. Within the media industry, I’ve had managers who eye my body rather than my face during conversations, and a colleague who once handed me a manila envelope with two 8-by-11-inch photographs of me that he had taken. “I have one on my fridge,” he said. I mentioned the incident to another producer who had been at the outlet for a while to try to gauge what my other colleagues might think. “Oh, that’s just him,” the producer laughed. That reaction, effectively an endorsement for old men to flirt with the young women they worked with, made me really uncomfortable. But I was inexperienced and a contractor, so I knew I was easily replaceable.

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