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Sexual Harassment and Violence

Sexual Harassment

What are the common traits of sexual harassers?

Men who commit sexual harassment tend to score higher on measures of Dark Triad personality traits such as narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. They also tend to work in male-dominated fields and have generally hostile attitudes toward women. But research finds that they also have moral disengagement—a sense that their actions are justified, the use of euphemistic terms for their actions, displacement of responsibility (“it’s the culture here”), advantageous comparison (“I could have done worse”), and victim blaming.

Why do many victims of sexual harassment not come forward?

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, many women who are sexually harassed do not come forward but instead try to avoid their harasser, downplay the seriousness of the crime, or simply try to ignore it or forget that it happened. Shame or self-blame, denial or disbelief, fear of consequences, low self-esteem, feelings of helplessness, and a sense that they will not find support or justice all contribute to an unwillingness to come forward.

Rape and Sexual Abuse

How common is sexual abuse?

Sexual violence is far too common: A third of American women, but also a quarter of men, will experience sexual violence in their lifetimes, according to the National Institutes of Health—and about 6 percent of all women experience an assault in any given year—although researchers agree that many more individuals have never reported their abuse, including in an estimated 60 percent of rape cases, partly because at least 50 percent of rapes are committed by intimate partners. In 80 percent of sexual-abuse incidents, the survivor knows their attacker. In most cases, there is also a difference in power dynamics between perpetrator and victim, whether within a family, a workplace, or a community.

Is sexual violence natural for humans?

Many people believe that men are by their nature sexual predators, but they are not, and sexual assault is not simply a reflection of what evolution has shaped men to do. But sexual violence has never been found to be genetic, and research on whether sexually aggressive males fare better in producing offspring are inconclusive. Instead, researchers now see a propensity for sexual violence as a complicated mix of biological factors (men are generally stronger) and, at least as importantly, social and cultural beliefs.

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