November 19, 1998: Is Sexual Harassment an Epidemic?

sexual harassment

A Brief History

On November 19, 1998, the United States House of Representatives began hearings on the Monica Lewinsky-President Bill Clinton sex scandal that would result in Clinton being impeached for lying about the affair.  With Clinton out of office since January of 2001, it would seem the incident would be long forgotten, except for the 2016 Presidential campaign in which the Bill Clinton’s alleged history of sexual harassment/predation was brought up in retaliation for the revelations about Donald Trump’s alleged record of sexual harassment.  Combined with recent events in the past couple years, the incidents that have been alleged in 2017 (many from the past) have created a veritable circus of allegations, denials, and sometimes confessions and apologies.

Digging Deeper

Given the current state of one celebrity after another being accused of some sort of sexual harassment (Judge Roy Moore, candidate for the US Senate; Harvey Weinstein, movie mogul; Al Franken, US Senator; Louis CK, comedian, Bill Cosby; comedian; Mariah Carey, singer; Kevin Spacey, actor; Ben Afleck, actor; George HW Bush, former president; Bill O’Reilly, pundit to name a few of the recently accused) you might think that we are experience some sort of epidemic of sexual harassment.  Or is it only because we are more aware of the problem?

We strongly suspect that the reality is that there have always been high levels of sexual harassment, pressure, even force, going on in the workplace, the school, and anywhere human people interact.  Back when Hollywood was famous for the “casting couch” and young actresses were said to have to yield to the sexual advances of directors and producers to land a role, the subject was joked about instead of generating outrage.  Marilyn Monroe is often quoted as saying, “I’ll never have to suck a Jewish cxxk again” after she made it big in movies.  Back when women were limited to secretarial and clerical type jobs, male bosses would treat them like servants, maids, or slaves, and sexual comments, touching, innuendo, and ultimatums were the order of the day.  When powerful men (bosses, teachers, politicians) made unwanted advances on a woman or girl, the female kept quiet about it and the press ignored it.  It is highly unlikely the rash of school teachers having sex with students is a recent phenomenon.  More likely than not it is just more media attention and willingness of courts and parents to prosecute (and SUE!).

Over the years, lawsuits over a wide variety of issues have become more and more prevalent, at an ever-increasing rate, with media coverage of large settlements making the opportunity to sue a tempting proposition for anyone with a complaint.  As successful prosecutions, successful lawsuits, and public opinion continues to lean in favor of victims, such sexual harassment revelations will increasingly become public in a snowball effect.

Of course, it is not just women and girls that get sexually harassed!  Kevin Spacey is accused of making homosexual advances on boys, and Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted of such behavior.  In recent years a rash of female elementary through high school teachers have been convicted very publicly of having sex with male students, providing material for late night comedians, but likely not funny to the parents of the boy victims.  The predation of pedophile priests on young boys is an embarrassing scandal within the Catholic Church, and other men of the cloth have quite publicly been exposed as sexual harassing sinners (both heterosexual and homosexual harassment).

Estimates indicate a third of all American working women have been the victim of sexual harassment, and of those, about 75% have suffered some sort of retaliation for complaining about such behavior!  Other studies estimate only 6 to 13% of victims ever file a complaint or come forward.

As more and more people report incidents of sexual harassment from the past or present, more and more victims will be willing to come forward.  It will continue to seem like a tsunami of incidents, but in reality it is just more light being shined on the problem that has certainly always existed.  Hopefully, measure taken to reduce the incidence of sexual harassment such as education and efficient reporting procedures that do not punish the victim will finally start a trend toward the reduction of unwanted or inappropriate sexual coercion and advances.

What do you think we can do to reduce the amount of sexual harassment that still takes place?  What controls on false accusations would be appropriate that would not infringe on the rights of victims?  (Perhaps the subject of a future article/discussion!)  Do you think there is more or less sexual harassment than there used to be?  Are famous people being unfairly smeared by allegations, or is it about time these predators got their just desserts?  Feel free to offer your opinions or any insight into this very hot topic.

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Historical Evidence

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Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.