The Culture of Sexual Harassment


Kendall Gill, Writer

As 2017 draws to a close, it would be impossible to reflect on the past 11 months without looking back on the growing number of sexual harassment allegations and cases that have swept the nation and dominated the national and global media. With high profile cases taking over Hollywood as well as the release of Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year” honoring “The Silence Breakers” speaking out against seual harassment, the world is waking up to analyze what the phrase “sexual harassment” means, and what its effects look like in the private and professional world.


Despite the common stigma, sexual harassment affects both men and women, with data from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) showing as many as 17% of cases were brought by men in 2011. For many, there seems to be a relatively gray area surrounding what actually qualifies as sexual harassment and what makes someone a victim. Objectively, sexual harassment is “unwelcome sexual advances made by an employer or superior, especially when compliance is made a condition of continued employment or advancement.” With this foundation, the voices of victims and witnesses of harassment help find ways to move forward in repairing this significantly damaged aspect of the culture in the United States, and around the world.


In speaking to young women in the Frederick community, the widespread presence of sexual harassment became clear. In one specific case, a female employee currently working in downtown Frederick spoke about how her experiences with harassment have shaped her. As a 16 year old taking community college classes, she repeatedly felt unsafe and uncomfortable around a 21 year old man in her class, after sharing her phone number to discuss homework. When reflecting on the events, she spoke about the effects of harassment, describing, “I never went to a teacher or administrator because I never felt comfortable, and figured it was probably my fault and I had done something to make him think that he could act that way. Looking back, I realize how stupid that was. No matter what, there was no reason for him to do that. That whole experience is still in the back of my mind now. Even if someone didn’t do anything wrong, I just feel like I can’t trust anyone after that experience.”

For many victims, this lack of trust and inability to find closure is common. “I see many cases of serious sexual harassment where the victim can’t get any relief because society hasn’t deemed it a serious problem,” says workplace discrimination expert Patricia G. Barnes, Esq., author of Surviving Bullies, Queen Bees, and Psychopaths at the Workplace.