Why most sexual harassment cases in the workplace go unreported

Sexual harassment occurs in workplaces. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and any verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute this type of harassment.  

Unfortunately, most sexual harassment cases go unreported. This guide discusses why this happens:

Some behaviors are not obvious

Sexual harassment can be subtle. One may feel they are misinterpreting an action, especially if it’s considered “normal” in the office. There can be a lot of gray areas when it comes to this harassment. However, if something makes you uncomfortable, creating a hostile work environment for you, you should report it.


People who experience sexual harassment, including in the workplace, at times believe they may be responsible for the behavior in question. Due to this guilt, they may not report the case. 

The offender of sexual harassment is entirely responsible for their action. Thus, you should not blame yourself for it.

Fear of repercussions

Some employees fail to report sexual harassment because they fear potential consequences. For instance, if the offender is the employer or a senior, an employee may fear retaliation (being demoted, denied opportunities or terminated). If it’s a colleague, one may be afraid they may have an uncomfortable relationship with everyone in the office.

However, retaliation is unlawful. This means you are protected from it. Further, reporting sexual harassment can help you protect your colleagues from the offender. And some may have experienced the same case – they may get the courage to come forward when you do. Thus, your relationship with your colleagues may not change as expected.

If you believe you experienced sexual harassment, consider getting legal guidance to obtain more information about your case to protect your rights.   

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