Sexual harassment has long been thought of as a woman’s problem — existing in many people’s minds as the comedic image of an older, male boss chasing a younger, female secretary around the desk while declaring his desires.
The reality is far more complicated than that. Men can be victims of sexual harassment in the workplace too. In fact, figures from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission show that complaints of sexual harassment filed by men have doubled over the last 25 years. In 1990, only 8 percent of sexual harassment claims were filed by men. In 2015, 17 percent of the claims came from men.
Does this suggest that men are being sexually harassed more than they were in years before? It’s possible, especially as women rise to more positions of power inside various organizations, placing men in more vulnerable positions.
The figures are also likely an indicator that there is less stigma being attached to the idea that a man can be sexually harassed — although legal experts say that this attitude is far from gone.
Some employers still seem surprised that a man — any man — would resent or be distressed by the sexual advances of a woman. Some men have had to contend with their supervisors laughing off their complaints or even telling them to “take one for the team” when they complained about a female superior’s harassment.
It’s important to remember that sexual harassment is against the law no matter what the gender of the aggressor or victim. That includes sexually-based harassment when both the harasser and the victim are the same gender.
Sexual harassment can be subtle or overt, depending on the situation. It can include suggestive behavior, sexual comments, repeatedly asking you out on a date, suggesting that your performance rating at your job relies on your willingness to engage in sex with your boss, sexually offensive gestures or photos or sexually intrusive comments or questions about your sex life.
If you’re being victimized, the first step is to take your complaint to the appropriate party, to see if the issue can be resolved. If you are unable to resolve the issue that way or your complaints are dismissed out of hand, you should consider contacting an attorney who handles sexual harassment claims.
Source: New Jersey Department of Law & Public Safety, “Civil Rights Fact Sheet: Sexual Harassment – Your Rights,” accessed Jan. 05, 2017