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3 fears in reporting sexual harassment at work

Many women may justifiably worry about reporting incidents of sexual harassment they experience in the workplace.

Following are three of the top fears surrounding reporting sexual harassment at work, and how women can mitigate these fears to move forward with a claim when they feel ready.

1. Employer retaliation

Many women decide not to report incidents of sexual harassment they experience in the workplace because they fear their employer will retaliate against them. Unfortunately, this fear is not completely unfounded. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said in a report that one study showed 75 percent of employees who reported harassment experienced some form of employer retaliation.

2. Shame and embarrassment

It is very common for victims of sexual harassment to feel embarrassed about the behavior, even though it is not their fault. The idea of speaking up about harassment can bring on great fear of having to reveal this embarrassment on a larger scale. 

3. Status quo and culture

In some workplaces, a masculine culture may combine with a phenomenon known as the bystander effect, and these can prevent women from feeling comfortable in speaking up against harassment. When others witness the behavior, and no one speaks up about it, it can send the message throughout the organization that the behavior is acceptable, or at least condoned. If a victim believes that others know about the harassment, but they do not believe it worthy of comment or reporting, she may feel that reporting it herself will not be effective.

These are not the only fears women have about speaking up, but calling the illegal behaviors out is often the only way to stop them and receive justice. It is also the way to prevent others from falling victim to the harassment. Taking action and reporting sexual harassers can feel empowering. However, if a woman does not feel comfortable reporting the behavior to the company's human resources department, she may want to file a complaint with the EEOC, and seek legal advice about filing a lawsuit.

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