Most of us remember the awkward relationship between Demi Moore and Michael Douglas in the movie "Disclosure." Moore, portrayed as Douglas' ex-lover-turned-boss, sexually harassed her former flame — an allegation that was met with incredulity when Douglas complained, due to disbelief that a woman could be a workplace sexual harasser.
The pendulum has swung.
Andrea Ramsey, 56, running for Congress in Kansas, planning to challenge incumbent Republican Kevin Yoder in 2018, recently dropped out of the race. Why? Because of a 2005 federal lawsuit within which she was accused of sexually harassing a male employee she supervised.
Ramsey explained the incident as follows: “Twelve years ago, I eliminated an employee’s position. That man decided to bring a lawsuit against the company (not against me). He named me in the allegations, claiming I fired him because he refused to have sex with me. That is a lie.”
Although the merits of these allegations are more appropriately vetted in a court of law than in the court of public opinion, the significance of the allegations are that men are not the only ones accused of sexual harassment. And in the current #MeToo era in which we find ourselves both socially and politically, we can expect more women to be accused.
And there are more victims coming forward every day — because when it comes to sex offenses, delayed disclosure is closer to the rule than the exception.
Delayed Disclosure Is Closer to the Rule Than the Exception
Sexual harassment is often described as an invisible epidemic because it flies under the radar. Having spent years prosecuting sex offenders, I can share that both sex crimes and sexual harassment are severely underreported. This is particularly true when the suspect and victim are well acquainted.
Workplace sexual harassment victims often suffer in silence for years because they fear professional repercussions if they turn in the harasser — who is often a boss. Unfortunately, a sexually charged hostile work environment can negatively impact a victim´s job performance, morale, and ultimately, his or her professional future.
Sexual Harassment Victims Don't Quit Jobs, They Quit Bosses
Many sexual harassment victims are willing to walk away from even lucrative, well-paying jobs to escape a toxic workplace environment. Unfortunately, however, choosing unemployment rather than enduring workplace harassment can have detrimental and long lasting effects on a career. This is particularly true when victims are not forthcoming regarding their reasons for leaving.
Victims who choose to remain in a toxic workplace environment, for financial or other reasons, may experience withdrawal, reduced job satisfaction, missed work, and suffer from depression and anxiety — which can adversely affect relationships with co-workers.
Safety in Numbers
With the 2018 midterm elections in play, we are likely to see more complaints of sexual harassment against woman as well as men in the political sphere. Drawing courage from similarly situated victims, and sensing the opportunity to clear their name if they were one of the many employees who chose to quit rather than report the harassment, previously silent victims are finding their voice. Although we will leave each case resolution to courts, investigative committees, and boards, their voices deserve to be heard.
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