A new Pew Research Center survey found when it comes to sexual harassment in the workplace, Americans think men getting away with it and female accusers not being believed are major problems.
The study reflects attitudes and problems that exist everywhere, including Santa Clarita, representatives for the Domestic Violence Program at the Child and Family Center in the Santa Clarita Valley said Monday.
About 44 percent of Americans say they’ve received unwanted sexual advances or verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. About 6-in-10 women (59 percent) say they have experienced this, while 27 percent of men say the same, according to the study.
Alexandra Garcia, a youth prevention specialist and advocate through the program, said clients that come to the program, formerly known as the Domestic Violence Center of Santa Clarita Valley, have usually experienced trauma either as a child or in recent relationships they have been in. workplace harassment is often also touched on in client sessions, she said.
“Some of the clients that are coming to seek services, once we sit down and get to know them, you start to find out the workplace is a commonality,” Garcia said. “They’re mostly women sharing that they have experienced some sort of power and control at their workplace.”
The program serviced 1,660 clients last year who came looking for resources, Garcia said. This month is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the program plans to put on events at the College of the Canyons campuses to generate more discussion regarding #MeToo, a national movement of women sharing their experiences with sexual harassment and violence.
“When clients come through our door, there’s so much trauma they’ve experienced that I would say an estimation of clients that have come in are also experiencing sexual harassment at their workplace, especially if they’re women,” she said. “And especially if they’re women of a minority race. It’s more likely for women that are in the workplace to be sexually harassed or demeaned or manipulated in their jobs at risk.”
The PEW survey also finds that 59 percent of women and 27 percent of men say they have personally received unwanted sexual advances or verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature, whether in or outside of a work context. Among women who say they have been sexually harassed, more than half (55 percent) say it has happened both in and outside of work settings.
“I personally believe that this isn’t a new phenomenon,” Garcia said. “Now people are feeling more empowered to speak up about it. But this has been going on forever. Now that women are getting empowered and going for (different) jobs and speak up to tell their stories, we see the underlying thing is power and control due to gender roles.”
Also, 1-in-2 women have experienced sexual violence other than rape in their lifetime, 1-in-5 women have experienced completed or attempted rape in their life, and 41 percent of women reported experiencing physically aggressive street harassment and 1-in-3 women experience physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner, according to 2017 statistics from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
Sexual violence can also affect men, Garcia said. The center said one in six boys are sexually abused before age 16, and one in five men have experienced sexual violence other than rape in their lifetime.
Garcia also said about two-thirds of all rapes are estimated to go unreported regardless of gender, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
The program will host a #MeToo discussion at the Student Center at the College of the Canyons’ Valencia campus on Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. in room 129. Students will have an opportunity to make “touchstones,” a clear marble with a flat surface to glue mantras to hold onto when post-traumatic, stress-triggered flashbacks.
The program is also looking for donations to its Denim Day events later in the month. Garcia and other program participants will be on Valencia’s campus on April 24 and Canyon Country’s campus on April 25 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. with denim shorts, jeans, skirts and jackets for all members of the community to decorate. The denim clothing will be hung around the campuses afterward as a message of empowerment to survivors of sexual assault and rape.
April 25 is Los Angeles’ National Denim Day, in honor of an Italian movement in the 1990s, when women wore jeans to protest the verdict of a rape case. The judge in the case said a woman who alleged she was raped by her 45 year old driving instructor had a false testimony because her jeans were too tight to be removed without her consent.