- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
In addition to providing clear, practical suggestions and explanations, Surviving Sexual Violence: A Guide to Recovery and Empowerment has other important features:
o In addition to sexual assaults by strangers, intimate parents, and family members, it acknowledges the victimization of survivors of human trafficking, military rape, and group rape.
o It takes a holistic approach to healing by including the mind, body, and spirit of the survivors. They are encouraged to explore spirituality, meditation, journaling, and activism as additional pathways to healing.
Definitive in scope, Surviving Sexual Violence: A Guide to Recovery and Empowerment will help professionals and others who are invested in helping survivors come to terms with the past, while moving into a promising future.
NiCole T. Buchanan and Zaje A. Harrell
When most women reflect on their lives, they can recall at least one event that could be considered sexual harassment. For many, these events hearken back to high school, or earlier, and include comments made about her body, requests that she perform a sex act, or being groped by a boy, or group of boys, as she walked down the hallway. By college, a young woman may recall an instructor commenting on her body or hinting that she might discover her grade will improve if she will go on a date. By the time she finally enters the workforce, she may have a plethora of harassment experiences that have been so commonplace that few would recognize them as abusive. Once employed, she may be confronted by coworkers, bosses, and even supervisees that repeatedly make comments about her body, what sexual activities they would like to see her perform, or direct demands for sexual compliance that include the promise of a promotion if she does or a demotion if she refuses. Such experiences are not uncommon for the vast majority of girls and women, making sexual harassment one of the most common educational and occupational hazards girls and women face.
Many studies have substantiated that during their working lives, approximately half of all working women will experience at least one sexually harassing incident at work. Those who have been sexually harassed are likely to experience a variety of negative psychological, health, and work/ academic outcomes, such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress; job and supervisor dissatisfaction; diminished work productivity; and physical health problems. Once harassment has ended, these symptoms often do not go away quickly and may persist for many years. Sexual harassment is also directed toward men more frequently than previously assumed, and some of these men experience many of the same negative consequences as women. For example, approximately 15% of men have had at least one experience of sexual harassment at work, and some environments are associated with even greater rates of male harassment (more than 35% of male military personnel experience some form of sexual harassment each year). As further evidence of its occurrence, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which investigates workplace discrimination complaints, reported that men filed 2,204 (15.9%) of the sexual harassment complaints reported in 2008.
To date, sexual harassment research has largely examined the experiences of White adult working women and has focused little attention on the harassment experiences of other groups, such as working teen girls, harassed men, and ethnic minority women. Thus, questions remain regarding potential differences and similarities in the nature, frequency, and perceptions of sexual harassment across diverse groups of men and women. This chapter reviews current research findings on sexual harassment, including how it is defined as a behavioral and a legal construct, how men experience sexual harassment, and how sexual harassment is often infused with racial undertones when directed toward women of color (racialized sexual harassment). Finally, the chapter concludes with an example of sexual harassment, representing the experiences of countless victims of harassment.
DEFINING SEXUAL HARASSMENT
Sexual harassment is both a psychological and a legal construct. Behavioral scientists define sexual harassment psychologically as unwanted gender-based comments and behaviors that the targeted person appraises as offensive, that exceeds his/her available coping resources, and/or that threatens his/her well-being. Three subtypes of sexual harassment behaviors have been identified. Gender harassment refers to nonsexual, negative, gender-based comments and behaviors, such as comments that women are not as smart as men or that certain jobs are "men's work" that women should not have. Unwanted sexual attention includes nonverbal and verbal comments, gestures, or physical contact of a sexual nature, such as repeated requests for dates or attempts to kiss or fondle someone against his/her will. Sexual coercion includes compelling someone to comply with sexual demands via job-related threats or benefits, such as promising a promotion if the worker is sexually cooperative or threatening to fire the employee if uncooperative. Sexual harassment can be perpetrated by employers, coworkers, or customers or can involve a subordinate sexually harassing his or her superior (contrapower sexual harassment).
The legal framework defining sexual harassment is based upon precedent and evidence of threatening behaviors in the workplace. In Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that sexual harassment constitutes a form of sex discrimination and as such, is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. More specifically, they ruled that sexual misconduct can be defined as sexual harassment, even if the target did not suffer any tangible economic losses. Thus, sex-based discrimination includes circumstances in which unwanted negative, gender-based experiences become pervasive enough that an employee perceives it as hostile and/or it negatively affects his/her job performance (hostile work environment). The second legal standard used to define sexual harassment is quid pro quo (equivalent to sexual coercion) and includes any attempt to coerce sexual interactions by threatening one's employment status.
CAUSES AND OUTCOMES OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT
The Integrated Process Model of Sexual Harassment in Organizations by Fitzgerald and colleagues outlines how workplace sexual harassment is related to an organization's climate and job-gender context and then harms an employee's work, psychological, and physical health (see figure 1). In this model, organizational climate refers to the organization's tolerance of sexual harassment (e.g., harassment is modeled by superiors, harassers are not reprimanded). The job-gender context refers to a workgroup's ratio of men to women and whether the job is traditionally considered a man's or a woman's job. Workplaces that are generally tolerant of harassment, traditionally male-dominated occupations, and workgroups comprising more men than women typically have increased rates of harassment.
The integrated process model of sexual harassment also indicates that increased harassment is associated with a number of negative outcomes, such as lowered work satisfaction, increased absenteeism, depression, posttraumatic stress symptoms, and gastrointestinal problems. Stress and appraisal theories posit that how an individual perceives, or appraises, an event influences one's distress in response to an experience. How a target appraises a sexual harassment experience mediates the relationship between sexual harassment and negative outcomes. The appraised severity of the harassment is affected by a variety of factors, such as being threatened or fearful as a result of the harassment, the length of time over which one was sexually harassed, whether or not physical contact was made, and what type of harassment occurred. Harassment incidents that continue over a long period of time, occur frequently, and involve unwanted physical touch or sexual coercion are all associated with more negative appraisals of the harassment. In addition to the harassment itself, factors related to who the perpetrator and target are also matter. For example, harassment by someone of higher organizational status is associated with more distress. Further, being singled out for harassment versus knowing that harassment is also directed toward others in the workgroup is associated with worsened outcomes. Among Black women, sexual harassment by White men was associated with greater distress than harassment by Black men, and experiences that included racialized sexual harassment further increased their distress.
Sexual harassment harms those targeted, and this harm may persist for years after the harassment has ended. Many studies have documented the extensive physical and emotional costs for those who have been harassed. It is believed that costs to emotional well-being are directly related to harassment, whereas the physical health consequences are by-products of the increased psychological distress associated with sexual harassment. More specifically, sexual harassment has been linked to gastrointestinal (heartburn, diarrhea, stomach pains), musculoskeletal (headaches; pain in joints, muscles, back, and neck), and cardiovascular symptoms (chest pain, tachycardia), headache, eyestrain, skin problems, and chronic diseases, such as hypertension, neurological disorders, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and so on.
The negative effect of sexual harassment on psychological well-being is far reaching. As a pervasive, chronic, and often traumatic event, sexual harassment can lead to symptoms of posttraumatic stress. Initially, sexual harassment was not considered sufficiently traumatic to warrant a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Many researchers have challenged this assumption, arguing that sexual harassment meets the criteria for a diagnosable trauma as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV). If post-traumatic symptoms are examined, it is clear that the frequency and severity of post-traumatic stress symptoms are strongly associated with the frequency and severity of the sexual harassment experience. This relationship is found when studying rates of harassment and discrimination across one's lifetime or only examining recent events and is found across situations (e.g., harassment in the workplace, in school, or by strangers in public). Post-traumatic stress symptoms related to sexual harassment have also been documented across several studies and populations, such as college students, Marines, litigants, Turkish women, and Black women. These studies show that sexual harassment is traumatic and commonly leads to symptoms of posttraumatic stress; therefore, a PTSD diagnosis is warranted when the criteria have been met.
Sexual harassment may also explain a portion of the difference in rates of depression and eating pathology among women and men. Women are twice as likely to develop depression and more likely to experience sexual harassment compared to men. Further, depression is higher among those who have experienced sexual harassment compared to their non-harassed counterparts, leading some to theorize that gender differences in the rates of certain disorders are related to women's higher risk of experiencing discrimination and sexual harassment. Eating pathology and body dissatisfaction are also associated with sexual harassment, but this can occur for multiple reasons. Sexual harassment often damages self-esteem, particularly body-based self-esteem, which then puts one at risk for increased eating pathology (sexual harassment syndrome). Sexual harassment also increases one's body scrutiny and dissatisfaction, which further increases one's risk for disordered eating. Finally, when women's bodies are evaluated and objectified through sexual harassment experiences, targets may internalize this image (self-objectification) and spend increased time monitoring their bodies (self-objectification theory). In turn, excessive body monitoring can increase body image distortion, shame, anxiety, restrictive eating, binge eating/bulimia, and depression.
Self-medicating via the misuse of cigarettes, prescription medications (e.g., sedatives and antidepressants), and alcohol are not uncommon among those who have been sexually harassed. Clearly, many victims of sexual harassment use such substances to reduce their associated feelings of stress, depression, anxiety, hostility, and a perceived lack of control related to being sexually harassed. These negative health behaviors used to cope with harassment are detrimental to long-term health.
Work-related tasks and perceptions are also harmed by sexual harassment. For example, those who have been sexually harassed report increased absenteeism and lower job satisfaction, work productivity, supervisor satisfaction, and organizational commitment. These behaviors not only reflect employee distress but also result in soaring organizational costs. The U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board analyzed the costs of sexual harassment in terms of these negative work behaviors and determined that the U.S. government loses more than $327 million dollars every year due to factors such as employees' decreased productivity and absenteeism related to sexual harassment. However, this figure is a vast underestimate of the true costs of sexual harassment because it does not include the cost related to the harasser (e.g., decreased productivity while engaging in harassment), changes in work behaviors by coworkers that have witnessed the harassment (e.g., decreased morale and productivity), or any of the costs of investigating, mediating, or litigating harassment charges.
COPING WITH SEXUAL HARASSMENT
Problem-focused or emotion-focused coping strategies refer to a variety of cognitive or behavioral methods used to reduce the stress of a traumatic event.23 Problem-focused strategies focus on managing or changing the situation (e.g., reporting the incident) while emotion-focused strategies attempt to manage one's own thoughts and feelings about the situation (e.g., avoiding thinking about it). Knapp and colleagues proposed four categories of coping with sexual harassment: avoidance-denial (avoiding being physically close to the perpetrator or avoiding thinking about the harassment); social support (receiving emotional support and advice from others); confrontation-negotiation (directly communicating with the perpetrator that the harassment must end); and advocacy-seeking (reporting the perpetrator's behavior to appropriate individuals within the organization). The type of coping method one uses is influenced by characteristics of the target and perpetrator, the harassment, and his/her own cultural norms. For example, more upsetting, frequent, and persistent harassment will result in the use of multiple strategies to try to end the harassment and decreased reliance on ignoring the perpetrator's behavior. Those harassed by a superior, especially if they are fairly low in organizational status, are more likely to talk with trusted sources and eventually report the harassment than those harassed by coworkers. Although rates of reporting sexual harassment remain extremely low overall, women from collectivistic, patriarchal cultures are less likely to confront harassers than to try to avoid the perpetrator. Among one sample of Black women, avoidance and denial were common, but as harassment increased in frequency and severity, they utilized additional coping strategies, including confrontation. These findings reflect that coping with sexual harassment is a dynamic process, and targets adapt their coping strategies in an attempt to end the harassment.
The question remains as to whether or not there are advantages to using certain coping strategies rather than others. Many organizations require that targets formally report sexual harassment to someone in authority within the company and more generally, many assume that confronting the perpetrator or filing a complaint are indicators that the target really did not want or enjoy the harassment. "Passive" responses, such as trying to avoid the harasser, are frequently viewed negatively; however, passive strategies often reflect well-thought, deliberate attempts to balance the harm of being harassed and the potential risks of angering or alienating the perpetrator and supporters (e.g., being ostracized by other coworkers, demoted, or fired). In fact, over two-thirds of those who have voiced concerns about harassment faced retaliation as a result. For example, among Black women in the military, those who filed formal complaints against their harassers experienced negative work outcomes; conversely, confronting the harasser (without filing a report) resulted in better psychological well-being. Taken together, these studies indicate that the responses often assumed to be most appropriate may come with a high price to one's psychological and occupational well-being.
SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND WOMEN OF COLOR
Despite considerable progress over the past several decades, gender and racial inequalities remain across all sectors of the labor market; thus, working women of color are disadvantaged in the employment sector, and this reality may influence how they are sexually harassed. Although sparse, theoretical and empirical work examining women of color and sexual harassment is growing, but many questions about their experiences remain unanswered. Double or multiple jeopardy theory informs much of this body of research and suggests that because women of color are marginalized across multiple domains due to their race and gender, they are at increased risk of being victimized. Thus, sexual harassment is likely to be more frequent and more severe for women with multiple intersecting marginalized identities. A small, but growing, body of research supports this assertion that women of color experience more frequent and severe sexual harassment.
Excerpted from Surviving Sexual Violence Copyright © 2011 by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of ROWMAN & LITTLEFIELD PUBLISHERS, INC.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.