How common is sexual harassment in the workplace? 3 things to know

On behalf of Fox & Fox, S.C.

The #MeToo movement has shown a harsh light on the problem of sexual assault and harassment in the workplace.

You may have experienced such harassment yourself or know someone who has. How widespread is the problem?

Here are three things know as you try to put your situation in context.

Social media interest in sexual harassment is one indicator of the sheer scale of the problem.

Tarana Burke coined the phrase MeToo in 2006, after working with women who had experienced sexual assault.

In October 2017, a tweet by actress Alyssa Milano about Harvey Weinstein took the phrase to a new level when she invited other women to share their stories. With the first 24 hours, #MeToo had become a viral hashtag and there were more than 12 million Facebook posts and reactions to it.

Formal complaints do not tell the full story because sexual harassment is often underreported.

In Fiscal Year 2016, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received nearly 30,000 complaints of harassment at work. Nearly 1 in 4 of those complaints were of sexual harassment.

Though not all sexual harassment complaints are brought by women, the percentage is high – upwards of 83 percent.

The number of formal complaints is probably only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. This is because most experts believe sexual assault and harassment are greatly underreported. In one survey, for example, only 30 percent of workers who had experienced sexual harassment said they had reported it formally.

Wisconsin women continue to tell their stories of sexual assault, harassment and discrimination.

This week the Wausau Daily Herald ran a lengthy article about prominent Wisconsin women who have been victims of sexual misconduct. The women included women from many different walks of life, from state government to nonprofits to the private sector.
The common thread was perseverance and a strong desire to no longer be silent.

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