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Why sexual harassment goes unreported

While many workplace problems are reported right away, sexual harassment often goes unreported. Those who would call a supervisor immediately if someone stole something from their desk may say nothing when being harassed, even if it's creating a hostile work environment and an even more serious issue than theft. Why does this happen? Researchers have noted three main reasons:

1. Victims are worried that they'll actually be blamed. This mentality sometimes suggests that the victim was "asking for it" or did something to incite the behavior. People will keep quiet for fear of ruining their own reputations or even facing serious consequences.

2. Victims don't think people will actually do anything to help. This can be a big issue in a company or an organization. If those in positions of power do not make it clear that they're against harassment and will work to end it, victims may not feel like they can turn to anyone when needed. Obviously, this becomes even more of an issue if those in charge are the ones carrying out the harassment.

3. Victims may feel they don't have other career opportunities. This has traditionally been true more for women than men. Though women are involved more in the workforce now than they have been before, women in the past (and still today, to some extent) may have had very limited employment opportunities. They would be nervous to report illegal activity for fear that they could lose their jobs.

Remember, when unwanted sexual advances are made in the workplace, you do have legal rights and options in New Jersey. Be sure you always know what they are and where you can turn.

Source: UNM, "6. Reporting Sexual Harassment," accessed Aug. 12, 2016

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