COVID-19 has changed all aspects of our culture, but it has not left behind sexual harassment. A recent Forbes article states reports of sexual harassment are down, which could be due to a variety of reasons, some of which were mentioned in the article.1 However, sexual harassment is notoriously underreported, with 3 out of 4 people choosing not to report2. With the stakes of unemployment being even higher due to the pandemic, it is no surprise reporting is even less likely now. Forbes reports that virtual sexual harassment is rare, however, the majority of people are not working virtually.
The Economic Policy Institute reports that only around 30% of people can work from home. This percent has a large variance in race and ethnicity, showing only “1 in 5 Black workers and 1 in 6 Hispanic workers being able to work from home”3. Virtual work during this pandemic is a huge privilege, one that many do not have. Even social distancing and mask wearing cannot stop sexual harassment. The Forbes article draws attention to this with the example of the hospitality worker, where new forms of sexual harassment have been identified surrounding mask wearing. We must not assume that because reports are down, that sexual harassment is thus not happening. Instead, we must continue to educate about sexual harassment so that people are able to identify it, while simultaneously reducing stigma against victims and enforcing policies/laws that prohibit harassing behaviors and protect victims or those at risk of being harassed.
So what does sexual harassment look like now and are people able to identify it? According to a study done by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) back in 2016, when they asked women if they had experienced sexual harassment without defining the term, 1 in 4 women reported they had. However, once the term was defined, specifically giving forms of sexual harassment, 60% of women then reported experiencing it.4 In a culture “pre COVID-19” people were unable to identify sexual harassment, now that COVID has changed our culture completely, are people able to identify new forms of sexual harassment? Rebuilding Hope! offers sexual harassment training for all workplaces, schools, and community members while additionally offering support to victims through our 24/7 hotline and trauma-informed therapy. We understand the risks of reporting and will support any victim regardless of if they feel safe reporting or not. If you are interested in booking a seminar on sexual harassment, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Elsesser, Kim. “COVID’s Impact on Sexual Harassment.” Forbes, 2020. www.forbes.com. ↵
- U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace. 2016. www.eeoc.gov. ↵
- Economic Policy Institute, et al. Not Everybody Can Work From Home. 2020. www.epi.org. ↵
- Golshan, Tara. “Study finds 75 percent of workplace harassment victims experienced retaliation when they spoke up.” Vox, 2017. www.vox.com. ↵