How Has Sexual Harassment Changed Over The Years

Jul 19, 2022 | Business Insurance

The World Health Organization estimates that sexual violence affects one-third of women worldwide. Assault, abuse, and violence are widespread problems in the United States. In homes, in the streets, and the workplace. Across race, sexual orientation, and many factors, women have the short end of the stick. So, how has sexual assault changed over the years?

Sexual harassment may be an issue for women, but men can also be the victims. They happen at a lower frequency. However, they are both wrong. light has been shed on them more frequently than ever.

In 2016, almost 7,000 sexual harassment charges were filed, 82 percent by women. A year later, the #metoo movement shook the world. The voices that stood out and the actions that were taken rippled through various spaces, especially the American workspace.

Thanks to the rise of social media and the internet, we can track information from before the famous movement till now.

What actions can you take, and has anything changed since this started?

Sexual Assault and How has Changed Over the Years

Sexual harassment/abuse/violence are all harassment violations in the US because a person’s violation of sexual consent is unlawful. Its impact, not its intent, and the act of unwelcome advances must be considered harassment.

Types of Sexual Harassment

Sexual Coercion

Sexual coercion is where the aggressor pressures, threatens, tricks, or forces a victim to perform sexual acts in a nonphysical way. It makes the victim believe they owe the harasser sex or sexual favors. A harasser is usually a person with power over the victim.

Gender Harassment

Gender Harassment is another form of harassment that doesn’t include explicit sexual behavior. It includes slurs and other harmful and hostile stereotyping of the victim’s gender in various settings. This harassment is made to make the victim feel constantly uncomfortable.

Sexual Attention

Unwanted sexual attention is a form of sexual attention where the victim receives sexual advances. This can be physical or through inappropriate comments and stares that make the victim uncomfortable.

Sexual harassment does not only relate to women, though women make up most of the victims. A Harasser can be the same age, gender, orientation, and more.

Sexual Abuse/Assault in the Workplace and How it Has Changed

Women in the workplace demand more agency over their work lives and more awareness in their chosen workspace. Along with finding out the salary and benefits of the job, women also take an interest in company culture and vetting workplace environments.

Though many people might experience workplace harassment, many people don’t report it. Women fear that they will lose their jobs, be blacklisted in their field, that no one will believe them, scrutinize their story, and even be accused of lying and blamed for their own experiences.

The increase in public scrutiny of sexual assault in the workplace, especially, was due to the #metoo movement.

What is the #MeToo movement?

The #metoo movement is a social movement against sexual abuse and harassment. Tarana Burke gave us the term MeToo on Myspace in early 2006 to promote empowerment and empathy amongst women of color who are victims of sexual abuse.

It took prominence in late 2017 when actress Alyssa Milano tweeted #MeToo in response to predatory accusations against Harvey Weinstein and as many women shed light on their experience with high-profile men in the entertainment industry and more.

The hashtag now clocks in 200,000 times by the end of the day and more than four million times on Facebook.

Effects on Workplaces Post “me too” and How Has Sexual Assault Changed Over the Years

According to the Harris poll by Career Arc, 76 percent of American employees agree that the social movement positively impacted how sexual harassment is addressed in the workplace.

74 percent of employed Americans say the movement has helped decrease sexual harassment in the workplace. And 68 percent of employed Americans also say that the movement has made the workers more vocal and empowered them to report sexual harassment at work.

While the numbers show that the impact of this movement is fairly positive, there’s still work that needs work on behalf of employees in the workspace. 41 percent of employed Americans say their HR department takes sexual harassment in the workplace very seriously.

The Role of Employers

Company culture plays a role in how sexual misconduct is recognized and dealt with. When harassers believe they can get away with their actions and victims, know that nothing will come from the reporting,

This is how a harmful space is created and kept functioning.

Here are some effective ways employers can make their companies safe spaces for women and other victims of sexual harassment.

Harassment Policy Review

Implementation of Sexual Harassment Policies must be up to date and reviewed every couple of years. What should be condoned is always changing, and is the company’s job to keep up with it to make its employees feel the most confident and comfortable?


Everyone in the company must go through sexual harassment training.

A space where there is an open discussion about the policy, and employees are made known that their voice matters. Along with the policy, this should occur yearly and be mandatory for all.


There should be varying ways an employee can report or complain about sexual violence to the company. A group of people or various heads for different departments gives victims choices to talk to who they’re most comfortable with.

Managing Claims

There should be a fair, detailed investigation when a victim comes forward to process a claim. Taking steps such as:

Protecting the accuser

Separating the accuser and accused is important.

Making sure the accuser is safe and won’t be the victim of more retaliation from others in the workspace helps with managing claims of harassment. 46 percent fear retaliation when reporting incidents to their company’s HR department.

Seeking other victims

Abusers rarely ever just have one victim. When a victim has been brave enough to call out the abuser, looking at their interactions with other employees will help with the investigation.

Willingness to fire the accused

It is important that companies are not in any way protecting the accused. Doing so sends the message that harassment is unacceptable, and you’re saveable as long as you do your work well.

Break the Silence

All of these start with a conversation. This is something the metoo movement has started, and employers are responsible for keeping it thriving. Openly addressing concerns, listening, and creating safe spaces is important.

Both men and women in the workspace need to be able to talk about what is and is not welcome.

Change in the Workspace

Along with regular company protocols, since the metoo movements, employers have also adopted more informal ways to improve company culture.

Introducing anonymous helplines as an avenue for victims that don’t want to give up their identities. Monitoring sexual misconduct is a must part of the department leaders’ responsibilities. Spotting potential risks and putting them to an end to them before they can manifest into something bigger. The metoo movement has pushed for and created a sense of a growing community that the American workspace needed for a long time.

A toxic workplace is bad for all parties; employers, employees, and businesses. The metoo movement has created a standard, though not yet perfect, to help victims of sexual harassment in the workplace. Before this, companies had been lax with prioritizing change and instilling a sense of comfort in their employees.

Because of this, the equality and human rights commission published new technical guidelines that explain an employer’s responsibilities in harassment and the environment that breeds it.


The metoo movement has shown that victims and survivors of sexual assault are not alone and shouldn’t be made to feel so. Building support systems for those who’ve been victims of that trauma is important not only in the workspace but outside of it as well.

Women now feel empowered, and men are taking various actions to learn about and call out rotten acts around them.

We hope you learned a lot about how has sexual assault changed over the years. Visit our training and courses page or contact us here at Team AIS in Denver, CO, to learn more about harassment in the workplace and the tools we offer to help you elevate your workspace to a safe environment for everyone.

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