When we think of sexual harassment in the workplace, we almost immediately think of a young woman being taken advantage of by an older male superior. However, this is only one of its many forms. Men can also be victims of sexual harassment.
Understanding male sexual harassment in the United States
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), one in five cases of sexual harassment in the workplace are experienced by men. Closer to home, cases of sexual harassment among men in California are 10% higher than the national average.
This 2019 report by the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA), paints a bigger picture of sexual harassment towards men:
- At least 53% percent of men experienced some form of sexual harassment, such as cyber and verbal harassment, in their lifetime.
- 1 in 10 men experienced and survived sexual assault.
- 1 in 3 men were physically touched without consent.
- 1 in 7 men experienced being followed.
- 1 in 7 men experienced unwanted genital flashing.
- Men are more likely to fall victims to sexual harassment by peers within institutions like schools and workplaces. In such cases, reports often pointed to classmates or coworkers as perpetrators. Despite this, it’s rare for men and women to report sexual harassment to authorities.
The same report also found that male members of the LBGTQIA community are at more risk of being sexually harassed: 92% of reported cases were from gay and bisexual men. Even more worrying is that they are more likely to experience physically aggressive types of sexual harassment, with 77% of cases reported by sexual minority men.
Effects of sexual harassment on men
Like other victims and survivors of sexual harassment and/or assault, men experience and suffer mental, psychological, and physical scars. Furthermore, they also face an extra set of challenges brought about by societal expectations and norms.
Male victims are prone to develop deep-seated traumas associated with sexual harassment. The trauma takes a toll on their mental health, with many victims developing anxiety, depression, and alcohol and/or substance abuse. If the harassment happened within an institutional setting, it could make going to work or school a huge burden on the victim.
This is further amplified by the fact that male victims aren’t talked about enough. They receive little to no support. Sexual harassment and/or assault also creates a lose-lose situation for men: report the abuse and feel emasculated or live with the unbearable mental health conditions.
Why are men reluctant to report cases of sexual harassment and/or assault?
The #MeToo movement helped women speak up against many forms of sexual harassment. However, male victims have not had their voices amplified to the same degree and there’s a glaring reason why: toxic masculinity.
- It’s considered “unmanly”
The stigma against male victims reporting their harassment is strong. Plenty of male victims and survivors are afraid that they will be perceived as weak for reporting sexual harassment and/or assault.
Some victims are also afraid their sexual orientation will be questioned as they “let” the harassment or assault happen.
- Perceptual differences
Societal expectations also dictate different standards for sexual harassment among men and women. For instance, verbal sexual harassment and instances of unwanted touching can be considered grave if it’s directed towards women. These acts, however, are generally viewed as less threatening when done to the opposite sex. So, when men do speak up, their grievances are usually dismissed.
Male victims and survivors should also be supported
While laws for sexual harassment in the workplace can help the victim seek justice, it can be tough for men to come forward with their stories, let alone file a case against the perpetrator.
If a male survivor of sexual abuse opens up to you, make sure you support them properly. Listen to their story, assure them of your concern, and validate their feelings. Let them open up about the experience gently and help them get the resources they need. Most importantly, it’s time to treat sexual harassment and assault as it is regardless of the victim’s gender or sexual identity.
Figures of authority should also take extra steps to ensure that nobody experiences sex discrimination. For example, employers need to craft and implement policies for the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace.
Consult with San Diego’s top sexual harassment lawyers
Have you experienced sexual harassment, or do you know someone who needs legal advice about sexual harassment in San Diego? The top sexual harassment lawyers at Hogue & Belong are ready to listen to and help.