Even though women have been victimized by sexual harassment for some time, they have also been blamed for their perpetrator’s behaviors. Whether they have been accused of dressing provocatively, leading on the abuser, or acting in some other fashion, victims should not be held accountable for causing the harassment. Yet, even in 2019, women are still facing accusations that they are to blame for the sexual harassment.
A recent study in Psychology of Women Quarterly revealed that when sexual harassment victims are blamed, it can create empathy for their male abusers, and these feelings of empathy are more prevalent in other males. Researchers ran a study in which responders read a fictional story about a female student who alleged sexual harassment by a male student, and it detailed severe occurrences of obvious sexual harassment. It was determined that both male and females showed the same amount of empathy for the victim, but men had more empathy for the male abuser.
The test was repeated, and asked participants to look at the situation from the male and female’s perspective. Those who had the abuser’s perspective had an increased likelihood of blaming the victim, while those that were given the victim’s perspective had more empathy for the female.
The study’s lead author believed that the research could lead to workplaces that address the realities of sexual harassment. Rather than focusing on having men increase empathy for harassed women, it could be helpful to find ways to reduce empathy for the male abusers. Recommendations included finding ways to focus on how the male’s life would be negatively impacted if he was found to be sexually harassing another worker. This study only looked at the situation of a female victim and a male abuser, and not vice-versa or same-sex sexual harassment. It was mentioned that a female might feel more empathy for a female abuser, which was referred to as ingroup bias.
The Root of Victim Blaming
The study also considered the origins of victim blaming and described the just world hypothesis, which is the innate belief that people get what they deserve. An example would be if a person left their wallet on a restaurant table and walked away, it then deserved to be stolen. This belief in a just world can also apply to a victim of sexual harassment or abuse. One of the first steps toward changing this bias is to become aware of it, and this can be an important component of workplace sexual harassment training programs.
Philadelphia Sexual Harassment Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Advocate for Sexual Harassment Victims
You do not have to put up with workplace sexual harassment, and the experienced Philadelphia sexual harassment lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. can help protect your rights. For a free consultation, call us at 215-569-1999 or fill out an online form. Located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, northeast Philadelphia, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, and South Jersey.