Sexual Harassment: On the Rise or Just Into the Light?

From politics and Hollywood, to teachers and students, to the NFL and more, sex scandals are all around us. They’ve even taken over our social media news feeds with the recent #MeToo movement. But with accusations flying, fingers pointing, and signs a-waving, it bears the question, what’s really going on here?!

Sexual Harassment v. Sexual Assault

First, let’s get our definitions straight. Sexual harassment paints a broad stroke and can be anything from an unwanted invitation to an unwelcome comment. Harassment, in fact, doesn’t even necessarily have to be of a sexual nature. Making a comment about a woman’s height or a man’s thinning hair can be considered harassment, if it’s taken as an insult or delivered in a certain way. In the workplace, in particular, harassment must be frequent or severe enough to create a ‘hostile work environment.’ Outside of the workplace, there’s no such rule.

Sexual assault, on the other hand, is strictly physical in nature. An assault is unwanted, unsolicited sexual contact that usually involves force. Attempted rape, forcible sodomy, and similar acts are all considered sexual assault.

One of the current issues, though, is whether or not the definitions have changed. Some experts suggest that harassment is defined and perceived differently based on your age and generation. Millennials, for example, are less likely to tolerate an uninvited touch than a Generation X’er while Baby Boomers rarely use the term ‘sexual harassment’ at all.

Sexual Harassment by the Numbers

We know that sexual harassment is really nothing new (even if the terms have changed) but what do the numbers say?

According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incent National Network), sexual violence has actually dropped by almost half since 1993.

But, at the same time, the EEOC is estimating that nearly 75% of all workplace sexual harassment incidents are going unreported. In other words, according to the EEOC, it’s a bigger problem than we think.

With such conflicting numbers, again, it begs the question, what is really going on? It’s hard to get the full picture when definitions won’t line up and statistics don’t add up.

Is This a Political Thing?

One proposed explanation for all this noise and confusion is that politics play too big a role in the conversations.

It’s been noted, for example, that the #MeToo movement is mostly dominated by progressive and liberal females. The Hollywood actresses at the forefront of the movement are notably all liberal in their political ideologies.

Similarly, it’s been mentioned that nearly half of all white females voted for Trump in 2016, despite the sexual harassment allegations that surfaced during his campaign. And of these conservative females, few are participating in the #MeToo movement or coming forward with sexual harassment allegations themselves. In other words, conservative women, it’s been suggested, don’t seem to have an issue with harassment.

So, is this all just about politics?

There are no conclusions being drawn here but clearly there are some interesting discrepancies at the center of this sexual harassment epidemic. For everybody’s sake, hopefully things start to become clearer.