We Need Better Training & Reporting Systems To End Sexual Harassment At Work

Sexual harassment cases are incessantly on the rise in our society today. More numbers growing among prominent figures and reputable individuals at their workplaces. It is factual that the existing laws and regulation are doing enough in naming and persecuting the perpetrators. But how about the psychological damages and insecurity it posed to the society? We would have done enough by relying on the persecutions if the aftermath of sexual harassment does not reflect more dangers which include social problems and other related disorders, or if there is evidence that the reported cases represent a more accurate number of the occurrences.

The real menace about sexual harassment in our society is the inability to ascertain a relative or something close to the number of the occurrences among the genders in our society, conceivably, due to inadequate support, reporting systems or awareness of rights by the victims. Though most sexual harassment cases are filed against men who have imposed themselves on women or minors, it does not suggest a complete biases of the genders for potential perpetrators and victims in the category of men and women respectively.

Better Training To Stop Sexual Harassment

About 16 percent of the total 6,758 sexual harassment claims in 2016 were filed by men, according to a report by EEOC. This justifies a fair claim on the assumed statistics of occurrence among genders. But an investigation conducted by the US Department of Defense (DoD) in 2015 revealed that about 10,800 men and 8,000 women are sexually assaulted every year in the military. From which only 13 percent of the men and 39% of the women reported the attacks. That is, a total of about 87% of sexually harassed men in the military choose not to report even though in pains.

Failed reporting systems and poor training culture are the only accountable reasons why more men or victims are reluctant to report their ordeal, having a fear of being ostracized. Because more discrete reporting systems and quality training on sexual harassment with management endorsements would not have anyone prefer being in pains to having a deserving justice.  Hence, while we are using strict laws in dealing with the perpetrators, a more number of victims with no justification are on the rise.

This suggests that there is no relevant remedy in any fight to sideline the societal tribulations sexual harassment is set to bring aside from preventions. There is a need for effective preventive measures through better training & reporting systems as the only assuring remedy towards any campaign to end sexual harassment at work.

How do we achieve better training on sexual harassment?

A standard training for sexual harassment is to curb sexual harassment, but till date, research has revealed that the outcome is not quite good. Yes! The training has only been ineffective! Why?

An associate professor in Rice University; Dr. Eden Kings, suggests that “learning about a law may not actually change anybody’s behavior but the behavior or culture is what needs to be changed.”

Some studies show that ordinary training is practically limited in achieving the desired goal. It revealed that men who receive sexual harassment training were more likely to blame victims and less likely to report or notice sexual harassment.

Almost every employee knows about the policy prohibiting sexual harassment at their workplaces, but their cultural values and skepticism address these policies differently. Research shows that many mock the concept of training and awareness to prevent sexual harassment because no special offers or rewards are being attached, others show indifference as a result of the management attitudes and valuation.

Sexual harassment training exercises are not only aimed at improving the employees’ attitude at work but also to establish the company’s belief and seriousness in the policy. Hence, training must reflect organizational culture to achieve any efficiency.

Two recent studies suggest that efficient sexual harassment training can improve employees’ knowledge and personal attitudes; mostly the category of employees that believe that their workplace was properly cultured, irrespective of their personal sense of skepticism about the sexual harassment. Another group of employees who believe that their employers have tolerance for sexual harassment was not motivated to learn from the training because they took their cynicism into the training sessions.

Hence, a belief that the training is useless affected employees’ chances of gaining knowledge, regardless of how much effort and quality of training offered. According to Harvard Business Review, men who leave sexual harassment training and see the act as no big deal are most likely to harass women. And those with less regard for the work environment are the least to be motivated by training exercises.

In a more concise context, the significant difference in the training is not about how effective or quality, but the factors surrounding it such as where the training takes place, who attended, and the involvement of the company’s leadership members.

Reporting Systems

Fears of retaliation have been the major challenge victims of sexual harassment face due to poor awareness of existing reporting systems or non-protective nature of the one available. Endorsement of training and attendance by leadership members will encourage victims to report the incidents, having understood the personalities supporting his or her claims.

In 2016, EEOC reported that some complaints were not taken seriously by the organizations, while 75% of harassed persons face retaliation in the workplace according to a study in 2003. The reporting systems anchoring these complaints are poorly organized and rather promoting a belief that sexual harassment is not a big deal. Installation of effective and protective reporting systems is non-negotiable for any successful campaign in ending sexual harassment at work.


EEOC encouraged organizations to prevent sexual harassment from happening by widening strategies and integrating anti-harassment training as part of the company’s developmental plan. This implies different training approaches and an increase in bystander-intervention training to encourage awareness of how and when to intervene when sexually harassed.

The following areas must be improved in our organizational structures for an enhanced training and reporting systems as a means to end sexual harassment at work.

A change in organizational culture: With reports going high that organizational culture is more influential in the attitude of employees, there is a need to establish a culture that upholds anti-sexual harassment policy for effective results in training. Part of the culture may include conducting internal studies of the training and creation of task force on the study of harassment policies as suggested by EEOC in 2016.

A Clear goal of training should be established by Employers: Understanding that training would not alter long-term belief on how to behave around opposite sex; training should be designed to bolster specific goals. Training should be respect-based interventions and not support other discriminatory attitudes such as women avoiding certain duties for men in fear of transgressing boundaries.

Proper evaluate of harassment awareness and prevention training: As a symbolic evidence of legal compliance, reports on the effects or behavioral responses by the employees should be documented to help in re-strategizing for new models which should be more effective, if implemented models show less result. But organizations fail to report this fact in fear of recording failed anti-harassment training. The law should introduce incentives for employers as a measure to encourage them to conduct the evaluations. 

Priyansha Mistry

Currently editor at The HR Digest Magazine. She helps HR professionals identify issues with their talent management and employment law. | Priyansha tweets at @PriyanshaMistry

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