Why people wait to report sexual harassment and discrimination

On Behalf of | Apr 25, 2019 | Blog |

When allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination come out, one of the first things critics tend to ask is why the victim did not report the incident right away. It seems that any delay can get labeled as “too long,” as if that alone means that the account isn’t valid. Whether it took a month or a year or a decade, there’s always someone looking to say that the delay casts doubt on the claims.

While it may be easy for those who have experienced it to understand why this is a useless argument and has nothing to do with the validity of the claims, it’s important to dig a bit deeper into why people wait. Maybe this can help to expose some of the common myths and illustrate why this is such a hard step for people to take.

Fear of response

Perhaps the No. 1 reason people wait is because of fear. They don’t know how anyone else is going to take it. Will people believe them? What will they say? Will it change the way family and friends look at them? Could they lose their jobs? These are all questions they ask before coming forward.

“Most frequently, survivors of sexual harassment, exploitation and violence delay making an official report of what has happened out of fear of how others will respond,” one expert noted. “From retaliation by the perpetrator to gossip, dismissive responses and outright victim blaming by colleagues, friends and family.”

This is a huge reason why many of these cases get swept under the rug, so to speak. Even though it’s illegal to fire employees for reporting this type of behavior, they still worry that it will happen. They worry about blame games and outsider opinions. It’s not easy to put yourself out there like that and take those risks.

Issues being a victim

Another complex issue with reporting this behavior is that no one wants to be a victim. They don’t want to paint themselves in that light.

“It is difficult for people to acknowledge that they are being victimized, and even harder to do so when the circumstances don’t follow well-known patterns, such as having a female perpetrator,” the expert added.

People have to get their own minds around the idea that this happened to them, that it’s not their fault and that they need to take action. For those who have never experienced it, it is very unfair to say this should take a certain amount of time. It’s different for everyone.

Your rights

With that in mind, if you do find yourself facing harassment and discrimination at work in Minneapolis, make sure you know what legal steps you need to take.