How to identify sexual abuse and harassment

4:09 PM, Feb 27, 2018
4:03 PM, Mar 27, 2018

From revelations that the U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Team ignored hundreds of incidents of sexual abuse, to the Harvey Weinstein scandal that showed decades of workplace sexual harassment kept secret, many victims have recently come forward to shed light on past sexual crimes.

Since 1980 when America’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission gave a legal definition for sexual harassment and discrimination, the country has provided legal protections and recourse for employees nationwide, but these revelations show how far there is to go before sexual abuse is effectively punished and prevented.

In fact, in a 2017 survey, nearly 70 percent of American women between the ages of 45 and 64 said that they had been sexually harassed, according to The Economist.

Each year, men and women endure abuse for fear of losing their jobs or because they aren't sure if what they're experiencing constitutes sexual harassment or discrimination. The following facts show what sexual harassment and discrimination are and what you can do to get justiceif you're experiencing such situations.

The scope of the problem

One of the first major cases to bring workplace sexual harassment and its definitions to light was Gretchen Carlson's lawsuit.

"As I've been investigating workplace sexual harassment what I found out is that it's an epidemic... It's a horrifying reality for millions of women when all they want to do every day is go to work," said Carlson, former Miss America and television personality, who filed a lawsuit against Fox News CEO Roger Ailes in 2016.

She also stressed that sexual harassment affects men and women in many demographics and professions.

"Sexual harassment doesn't discriminate. You can wear a skirt, hospital scrubs, army fatigues. You can be young or old, married or single, black or white. You can be a Republican, a Democrat or an Independent," Carlson continued.



What is sexual harassment?

The EEOC defines sexual harassment broadly as unwelcome or unwanted sexual advances or sexualized conduct that affects an individual’s work.

"Both victim and the harasser can be either a woman or a man, and the victim and harasser can be the same sex," according to the EEOC. "Harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted)."

Some examples of sexual harassment from the United Nations are:

  • Actual or attempted rape or sexual assault
  • Unwanted pressure for sexual favors
  • Unwanted deliberate touching, leaning over, cornering, or pinching
  • Unwanted letters, telephone calls or materials of a sexual nature
  • Unwanted sexual teasing, jokes, remarks or questions

Sex discrimination, more generally, involves treating someone in a work context (an applicant or employee) unfavorably because of that person's sex.

Intersections in definitions of sexual harassment and assault

While affecting a person's work is central to the definition of sexual harassment and discrimination, these actions often fall under the legal classification of sexual assault more generally.

Sexual assault covers "a wide range of victimizations, separate from rape or attempted rape. These crimes include attacks or attempted attacks generally involving unwanted sexual contact between victim and offender," according to the U.S. Justice Department. “Sexual assaults may or may not involve force and include such things as grabbing or fondling. It also includes verbal threats."

Ways that perpetrators manipulate victims

Abusers can use a number of manipulative tactics to make victims doubt their own interpretations of sexual harassment or abuse.

Getting outside help and counsel can help people understand if they're being abused and manipulated. The attorneys at Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrathwill be able to define the abuse you may be experiencing and offer legal counsel.      

Ending abuse

Even though victims want to see a fair end to the troubling situation they're facing, many are afraid of losing their job or having their allegations made public.

"If you reach out to an attorney you can find out what your rights are and your options. You don't have to make a public proclamation because you will have a legal professional working on your behalf," said South Florida personal injury experts at Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath.

No one should have to live or work in fear. For private, professional legal consultation about sexual harassment and discrimination, reach out to Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath at 561-655-1990 or at  They will fight for your rights.