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Sexual Harassment

NCJ Number
Louise I. Gerdes, Bruno Leone
Date Published
222 pages
Many social, legal, educational, and ethical issues are raised by the sexual harassment debate; many agree that sexual harassment is a serious problem, while others believe that both the problem and the penalties are exaggerated.
Class action lawsuits and large damage awards have stimulated the debate concerning the extent of sexual harassment in the United States. Many argue that sexual harassment is a serious problem not substantially different from rape. Both sexual harassment and rape victims are often accused of asking for the abuse, both suffer adverse emotional consequences, and both are forced to restrict their scope of activities at a substantial cost to themselves and society as a whole. Despite media focus on some atypical cases, the very real problem of sexual harassment among school children has been ignored. School sexual harassment policies are necessary to remind teachers and administrators that they must take complaints from students seriously. In addition, the stereotype of the submissive Asian woman has been exploited by American men. The assumption that Asian women are subservient and will not expose sexual harassment has made sexual harassment a pervasive problem. Further, sexual harassment of same sex victims should be taken seriously, and courts should affirm same sex harassment is illegal regardless of the sexual orientation of the victim or the abuser. Other views on sexual harassment contend that women have always had adequate ways of dealing with harassing behavior, that feminists have fostered an explosion of sexual harassment claims by creating the sexual harassment label for inappropriate behavior in the workplace, that faculty members have been unjustly accused of harassing students, and that the zeal to eliminate sexual harassment has resulted in the wrongful termination of innocent professors, and sexual harassment policies that regulate verbal conduct violate the first amendment right of free speech. Causes of sexual harassment are addressed, including male domination of the workplace, social and biological sex differences, the masculine gender role, sex role stereotypes, and tolerance of sexual harassment. Ways of reducing sexual harassment are discussed, with emphasis on legal responses, developing well-crafted policies, dealing with sexism, assuring sexual equality in the workplace, and adopting a policy of zero tolerance. Lawsuits and banning erotic words and pictures may not represent solutions to the problem of sexual harassment. The usefulness of legal definitions of sexual harassment is evaluated. References