Since sexual harassment continues to be a consistent destructive feature of American life and workplaces, especially in fields for which women are under-represented, such as law enforcement, we use one of the first nationally representative cross-sectional surveys (n = 2,867) of female and male law enforcement officers (LEOs) to assess the prevalence of workplace sexual harassment victimization.
Next, we assess how risk factors are related to this harassment through multivariable modeling. We observed large differences between rates of sexual harassment for female compared to male officers on both our measures of non-physical and physical workplace sexual harassment (sexual assault). Our combined measure of non-physical sexual harassment and sexual assault of female officers (71%) was in the range found in prior research and our 41% rate for male officers is also not trivial and requires attention from law enforcement leaders. We tested two competing hypotheses on whether female officers (and possibly some male officers not meeting certain definitions of masculinity) viewed as the most threatening by virtue of their job role in the male-dominated hierarchy will have the highest probability of being a victim of workplace sexual harassment (power-threat model) or whether those viewed as the most vulnerable officers will have the highest probability of sexual harassment victimization (vulnerable-victim model). We found greater support for the vulnerable-victim model. We discuss the implications of these results for guiding training and prevention strategies to address sexual harassment in the law enforcement workplace. (Publisher abstract provided)