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Sexual harassment takes many forms and affects all genders

#MeToo is the newest banner sweeping across social media platforms. The message gathered momentum in recent weeks in connection with alleged sexual harassment suffered at the hands of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Most who are adding their voices to the movement are women, but a male faction is beginning to speak up, too.

That might come as a surprise to many New York City readers, but it shouldn't. It is true that over half of working women report having been a victim of sexual harassment of some sort while on the job. But what is equally true is that men suffer harassment as well. According to one recent survey, nearly a third of all working men claim to have been victims of some sort of sexual harassment in the past year. Harassment crosses gender and sexual orientation lines. Holding employers accountable for maintaining safe environments can require strong action.

Harassment of men often overlooked

Experts will acknowledge that many studies have been conducted that track the emotional and financial distress that sexual harassment can have on women. How it affects men is not nearly as well documented, often because claims, if they are made, aren't taken seriously.

What harassment looks like

Sexual harassment can take different forms. At its worst, it can involve some form of coercion. This might manifest as a boss saying, "Have sex with me or I'll see you never work in this town again." The boss doesn't have to be male to make such a threat.

That type of intimidation might follow days or weeks of unwanted sexual advances. It might be inappropriate touching, verbal pressure to date, or even bribery.

The most common form of harassment, however, takes the form of hostile behavior. It might involve a worker or workers making denigrating comments about any other worker's sex, views on feminism, sexual orientation or even just their suspected orientation. Sadly, this type of harassment is the most easily dismissed as innocuous.

The research into men's experiences as victims of harassment may be lacking. What evidence there is, though, supports a conclusion that harassment negatively affects men and women alike and that companies would do well to formulate and enforce policies that better protect workers – or be prepared to be held to account.

Source: Psychology Today, "When Men Face Sexual Harassment," Romeo Vitelli Ph.D., accessed on Oct. 27, 2017

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