The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports it received 6,696 complaints last year of sexual harassment in the workplace, which should not be surprising given the public outcry and media attention in recent years to politicians, corporate executives, entertainment moguls and others accused of misconduct. More women have come forward thanks in large measure to the activities of groups such as the #MeToo movement. What might be surprising for some people is the fact that 16.5 percent of the complaints filed with the EEOC came from male victims. It is now becoming clear the actual number of men subjected to sexual harassment and sexual assault is far greater than anyone realized.
Victims Remaining Silent
A survey conducted earlier this year revealed that 81 percent of women and 43 percent of men admitted to being subjected to sexual harassment of some type. The consensus among experts is that workplace harassment statistics do not reflect the true extent of the problem because of the reluctance of victims, of both sexes, to report it.
The failure of men to file reports about their experiences as victims of all forms of sexual misconduct prevents them from obtaining the help and compensation they are entitled to under federal and state law. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, it is estimated that 10,800 men and about 8,000 women serving in the Army are victims of sexual assault, but only 13 percent of the men and 39 percent of the women actually filed reports about being attacked.
Why Reports of Victimization Are Not Being Made
The Department of Defense report of male soldiers as victims of sexual assault gave as one reason for the low number of victims coming forward the fear of being ridiculed and labeled as an outcast. One recommendation was for commanding officers and others involved in investigating sexual assaults to create a method for victims to seek help anonymously. The hope is that victims reaching out in this way might become empowered to file a formal report of the attack.
The embarrassment and fear of retaliation offered by women as reasons for not reporting sexual harassment at work apply as well to men. Humiliation at being victimized and fear of how co-workers would react to them keep men from filing reports of incidents at their places of employment.
Victims Are Protected from Retaliation
Victims fearing a backlash for filing a formal complaint of sexual misconduct regardless of the gender of the victim or the offender are protected by state and federal law against retaliation. It is illegal for employers in California to take negative action against an employee who complains about sexual misconduct in the workplace. Termination is one form of retaliatory action, but there are others, including:
- Denying the employee promotions or raises
- Transfer to a less desirable location or position
- Subjecting the employee to a negative review of performance
- Denying the worker the ability to work overtime
- Increasing the responsibilities or workload of the worker
Retaliation can be subtle, so if you believe your employer is taking action against you because you made a complaint about sexual misconduct, you should discuss the matter with an attorney experienced in handling sexual harassment and discrimination cases.
An Attorney Can Help
Victims fearing a backlash for filing a formal complaint of sexual misconduct regardless of the gender of the victim or the offender are protected by state and federal law against retaliation. The attorneys at The Cifarelli Law Firm, LLP, have been aggressively pursuing claims for victims of sexual abuse, harassment and other forms of sexual misconduct for more than 25 years. Our compassionate attorneys devote their energies to developing innovative strategies designed to achieve maximum compensation for the physical and emotional trauma suffered by victims. We are dedicated to giving a voice to the victims. Contact us today by calling (949) 502-8600 or use the form on our website to schedule a free and confidential consultation.