Every day there seems to be another accusation of sexual misconduct from a well-known celebrity. We have spent a lot of time discussing the career repercussions with which those accused have dealt, but often forget about the career changes that the victims must face as well. One of America’s most perceived television sweethearts, Today Show star Matt Lauer, has been fired from NBC for sexual harassment. To many viewers, this was heartbreaking, but to the victims, this was a huge relief, as Lauer has been accused of sexual assault and exposing himself to female colleagues. He has yet to address specific allegations, but has apologized for his misconduct, stating that while the accounts include some untruths and mischaracterizations, there is enough truth in these stories that he feels “embarrassed and ashamed.”
A common theme among these cases is the assault victims losing their jobs; however, they don’t lose their jobs involuntarily. Rather, after experiencing harassment and/or assault, these men and women choose to quit their jobs, leave the industry entirely, or have their passion for their chosen field crushed.
A study published by researchers at the Oklahoma State University, University of Minnesota, and University of Maine found that women who were sexually harassed were 6.5 times more likely to change jobs than those who were not harassed.
The researchers defined sexual harassment in seven different ways: “unwanted touching; offensive jokes, remarks, or gossip directed at a the study subject; offensive jokes, remarks, or gossip about others; direct questioning about a subject’s private life; staring or invasion of a subject’s personal space; staring or leering at a subject in a way that made her uncomfortable; and pictures, posters or other materials that the subject found offensive.”
The study’s co-authors found that of women who experienced unwanted touching or four or more of the other harassing behaviors, 80 percent started a new primary job in the subsequent two years, compared to 54 percent of women who did not experience abuse. The study also found that the women victimized by unwanted touching or multiple harassing behaviors reported greater financial stress in the following two years, which proves a clear correlation between sexual harassment, job change, and economics. The study goes on to say that the sexual harassment financial impact is “comparable to experiencing other negative life events – serious injury, or illness, incarceration, assault – suggesting that sexual assault… and harassment may have analogous scarring effects.”
Some of the victims would go out of their way to find a field that was not dominated by men. However, this resulted lower pay, service-oriented jobs, part-time or cut hours, or a change to their normal shift to avoid their abuser and other hostile environments.
One woman from the study says, “I quit, and I didn’t have a job. That’s it. I’m outta here. I’ll eat rice and live in the dark if I have to. ”
So why aren’t companies doing more to protect the victims and their jobs, rather than letting the perpetrators get away with this? As more and more of these stories come out, we need to remember that just because of a perpetrator’s job termination does not mean the case is closed. The victims suffer psychological issues, financial setbacks, and a loss of a chance to be a part of their dream jobs. There needs to be more support for the women victims in the workplace to assure their safety.
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