Image from National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.,


In the Tower: Barbara Kruger

The biggest question is why now?

Why not now?

Is it possible to think that this unveiling of sexual harassment is new? Is it ignorant to believe that all the data gleaned from the government websites might be an accurate representation of all the people that have faced sexual harassment in the workplace? A majority of the sexual misconduct that goes on at a professional level will probably never be revealed by victims and kept deep in their own memory banks. Victims remain silent.

We must also consider that sexual harassment goes beyond just the work place and that the current claims being brought to the surface are only an etching of the deep history  of sexual harassment in the work place.  It is important to recognize the pervasiveness of sexual misconduct.

“Sexual harassment is only unwelcome sexual conduct that is a term or condition of employment constitutes a violation. 29 C.F.R. § 1604.11(a).” As defined by the United States  Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Recently Buzzfeed published an article that gives a breakdown of sexual harassment claims filed over the past 20 years filed across all industries and professions.

It is proven that the victim of sexual assault is most likely a woman.  According to the EEOC of 83% of sexual harassment claims have been filed by women. 

Victims remain silent because they believe there claim will rarely lead to any outcome.

“For most of American history, women silently endured mistreatment in the workplace, with little protection or recourse. During the 18th and 19th centuries, sexual coercion was a fact of life for female slaves in the South, as well as a common experience among free domestic workers in the North. In the early 20th century, women employed in new manufacturing and clerical positions confronted physical and verbal assaults from male supervisors. Union leadership was successful in enacting protective legislation that shielded women from performing physically demanding labor, but not from the propositions of lecherous bosses. By the 1920s, working women were advised to simply quit their jobs if they could not handle the inevitable sexual advances.” As reported by Time

Silence is a direct result of societal thinking that this behavior is just something that you get through.  Each year over 50% of claims are dismissed because there has not been enough evidence to substantiate claims. According to the EEOC this is defined as “no reasonable cause” based upon the “evidence obtained in the investigations from 2010 to 2016

 However, this puts the victim in a he said she said ordeal.  This means that claims and allegations can only really be supported if there are witnesses to such behavior.

Numbers are not accounted for individual claims which have been filed within the workplace.  The EEOC receiving the claim is the last resort, still some claims internally are never reported or fully resolved.

Victims remain silent because they do not want to be blamed.

During the testimony of Anita Hill’s against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas in 1991, Hill was put on trial just as much as Thomas.  Confronted with uncomfortable questions, accusations undermining her own credibility.  Unknowingly this trial may have set the precedent for many women of what it looks like when you allege sexual harassment against a person in power. 

“Dominique Strauss- Kahn the former head of International Monetary Fund, was publicly accused of sexually assaulting a hotel housekeeper, the housekeeper’s immigration status and credibility were viciously attacked.” said The Restaurants Opportunities Centers United

Victims remain silent because fear of being fired, or facing unwanted retaliation

Silence rest in the concern of losing a job, not getting a promotion, further harassment, and being unfairly evaluated.

According to the EEOC” nearly three-quarters of sexual harassment charges included allegations of retaliation,  suggesting that many victims face retribution when they come forward or efforts to dissuade them from complaining”

Rather than staying in an uncomfortable situation and possibly facing further humiliation, most women make a statement by leaving.

Often women will leave the company rather than rather than making an official complaint, said Sahar Aziz, a law professor at Rutgers University who was part of the EEOC’s Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace.”

Victims remain silent because they are not aware the behavior they deal with is sexual harassment

Buzzfeed wrote “When employees were asked in randomly sampled surveys whether they had experienced sexual harassment at work, 25% answered yes, according to the EEOC task force’s study. That number rose to 40% when they were asked whether they had experienced “unwelcome sexually based behaviors” like unwanted sexual attention or sexual coercion.”

Silence is can be the result of not understanding what is deemed as sexual misconduct.  Is it okay if it just was one occurrence of unwelcomed advances or an uncomfortable joke?  Having clearer guidelines on the determining factors of sexual harassment would alleviate much of the perplexity. 

Victims remain silent because of shame

The shame and fear surrounding a terrible experience is one that most people probably do not want to relive or discuss.  Time interviewed victims in Person of the Year 2017: The Silence Breakers and they said, “The emotional and physical fallout from those advances,is described as wrestling with a palpable sense of shame.”

As a society it is important to break the silence by abolishing the milieu which has allowed victims to feel persecuted.