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Why won’t women tell?

Why do workplace sexual predators get away with it so often?

Social scientists, some courageous women and media analysts have just provided insightful explanations well worth pondering.

“Only a quarter to a third of people [almost all women] who have been harassed at work report it to a supervisor or union representative, and 2 percent to 13 percent file a formal complaint, according to a meta-analysis of studies by Lilia Cortina of the University of Michigan and Jennifer Berdahl of the University of British Columbia. Mostly they fear retaliation, and with good reason, research shows.” That’s the money quote from Clair Ann Miller’s New York Times report, “It’s Not Just Fox: Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Harassment.   

And “telling” — or, rather, not telling  — extends to private sexual harassment settlements as well.

In his New York Times op-ed, Bryce Covert asks, “In Sexual Harassment Cases, What Are We Settling For?“:

“…40 percent of women still say they experience sexual harassment at work. When they risk coming forward, many of them are either enticed or forced into private settlements outside of the courts by employers who want to avoid a public reckoning. Thanks to private settlements, we confront a very tiny sliver of their stories.”

Clair Cain Miller: “The best way to avoid sexual harassment and ensure that it’s reported when it happens is to bake it into company culture, from the top leaders on down, executives and researchers say.”

Of course,  it helps a lot when the “top executives” are women.

Hopefully — with more sensitive/responsible employers, sustained media attention and increased settlement transparency — workplace sexual harassment will decline.

But this cautionary note from Bryce Covert: “Bringing sexual harassment charges against an employer is never easy, and the victims who get settlements are the lucky ones. No one should begrudge them securing whatever bit of redress they can. But when they win a private settlement, the rest of us lose.”