Despite continued public awareness efforts and educational campaigns, sexual harassment continues to be a problem in today’s society. But, where does the root of the problem lie? Is it simply based in misogyny or are there more complex factors that must be considered? Research is beginning to show that bullying behavior at a young age may be linked with sexual harassment down the road, giving credence to the idea that sexual harassment is, at its core, another form of establishing dominance in a given arena.

A Pattern of Behavior

Several recent studies, including studies from the University of Illinois and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that young adolescent boys who bullied classmates were 4.6 times more likely to commit sexual harassment later in life. Additionally, boys who engaged in homophobic taunts or teasing related to gender or sexual orientation in school were 1.6 times more likely to engage in sexual harassment later.

Researchers stated that teen boys often feel insecure about their own sexuality and develop the need to “prove” their masculinity to their peers, and to themselves. The study’s chief author, Dr. Dorothy L. Espelage, observed that stronger sexual harassment intervention and prevention programs should begin in late elementary school to address such behaviors.

Are You Being Harassed?

Most people are aware that blatant acts, such as fondling or an unwanted sexual advance, are illegal, but sexual harassment has many other forms. The cumulative effect of this behavior, in many cases, is a hostile work environment. Often overlooked behaviors that may constitute sexual harassment include:

  • Unwanted sexual comments: Comments about a person’s appearance may seem innocuous, but they often mean that the person is evaluating your body in a suggestive manner. “I like that shirt,” is probably a better option than “You look really sexy in that shirt.”
  • Spreading sexual gossip: Whenever there are people who work in close proximity to each other, observations are bound to be made about one another’s lives. It may seem like harmless banter to discuss who may have gone out with whom, but if the conversation leads to what may or may not have happened on a date, it is probably not work-appropriate.
  • Familiar touching: A hand on a back, shoulder, arm or knee is not usually considered fondling, but it is certainly suggestive, especially if it happens repeatedly. Personal contact in the workplace should be kept to a minimum at all times.

While it may be difficult to know for sure that sexual harassment is occurring, you can create a decent gauge for yourself. If you routinely avoid certain people because they say or do things that make you uncomfortable, there may be a hostile environment situation at your workplace.

Talk With an Illinois Sexual Harassment Lawyer

No one should be made to feel uncomfortable at work. If you are concerned about the work environment at your job, contact an experienced DuPage County sexual harassment attorney. Call 630-665-7300 for a confidential consultation at MKFM Law today.