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are further problems of distinguishing how sexual harassment is perceived
and differentiated among people of different classes, races, sexual orienta-
tions, or cultural groups.
The evolution of sexual harassment has eventually led to a specific use of
the term as it relates to the workplace (see, e.g., Wikipedia). In the work-
place, sexual harassment is described as an exercise of power and control.
It could occur in the form of casual comments, threats of negative per-
sonnel actions, or direct physical abuse of a sexual nature. Other writers
agree that sexual harassment is difficult to define because it does not have
to be of an explicit sexual nature and can be expressed by generally offen-
sive remarks and comments that are often subjective.
Koss (1990) reported that, prior to 1990, US National data on sexual
harassment in the workplace were not routinely collected. It is therefore
difficult to obtain accurate numbers on its prevalence or impact during
that period. Koss did find that in 1993 it was estimated that 50% of all
women workers would experience some form of sexual harassment dur-
ing their working lives. The extent of workplace sexual harassment was
also difficult to clearly determine because victims could not recognize or
label it accurately, or would willingly report it.
Victims often feared that they would be blamed for initiating the
unwanted behavior and that nothing would be done if they complained.
A main fear of many victims was that by reporting sexual harassment,
some form of retaliation would follow. Many victims would therefore
simply continue to live with the harassment situation. Women often have
to decide if it is worth leaving their jobs and risking serious financial
hardship, acquiring a poor work history or obtaining negative job refer-
ences ( Koss, 1990 ).
Victims who speak out against sexual harassment in the workplace are
sometimes labeled as troublemakers or simply looking for attention
( Fitzgerald, 2003 ). It has been found that sexually harassed workers who
complain may risk hostility and isolation from colleagues, supervisors, and
even friends. Retaliation sometimes occurs when a sexual harassment vic-
tim receives a disciplinary action as a result of the harassment claim.
Contemporary legal writers have explained how sexual harassment
progressed as an illegal activity. The government ruling by the US Equal
Opportunity Commission (2012a) defines sexual harassment as follows.
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