U harassment study IDs unlikely victims

The study’s author rightly urges victims to report unwanted sexual attention early.

Recently the University released a study reporting that a surprising number of people, not previously considered major targets, experience sexual harassment in the workplace. The study, which appears in the current issue of the American Sociological Review, reiterates the need for harassment victims to speak out and find help.

Adult women are often thought to be the main targets of harassment in today’s workplace. But through surveys and interviews, University researcher Christopher Uggen found that adolescents and males with certain traits are also likely victims.

Uggen found that “If a man refuses to go along with sexual joking, wears an earring to the workplace or is financially vulnerable, he could be targeted.” Harassment likelihood increased with the amount of housework the man reported doing. Uggen also found that harassment of adolescents – male and female – is underreported, and often the victims do not consider their experiences sexual harassment even though the attention they received was unwanted. In all, one in three women and one in seven men reported being harassed by their mid-20s.

Uggen’s study brings to light the fact that workplace sexual harassment is alive and well among many parts of the population – some unexpected. He rightly urges victims to report unwanted sexual attention early.

The Board of Regents defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and/or verbal or physical contact of a sexual nature when (among other situations) Ö such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work or academic performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working or academic environment in any University activity or program.” This definition is nothing if not broad and students, staff and faculty should be aware of that.

A huge percentage of University students fit the profile of common harassment victims. Employers should encourage students to report even minor cases of sexual harassment – including unwanted flirting and sexual jokes – to avoid becoming victims of more serious harassment in the future.