Why do we blame the victims of sexual harassment?
Many of us like to think that we’ll stand strong and act decisively during a crisis, but until we’re put in one, it’s impossible to know we’ll react. That conflict may affect how we view victims of sexual harassment, according to new research.
“Double Victimization in the Workplace: Why Observers Condemn Passive Victims of Sexual Harassment,” a forthcoming article in Organization Science and co-authored by Professor Ann Tenbrunsel of the University of Notre Dame with researchers from the University of Utah, Brigham Young, and Northwestern universities, explores judgment surrounding the victims of sexual harassment.
Researchers found that when confronted with sexual harassment, many people do not stand up for themselves to the extent that they believe they will. And because they falsely overestimate their own response, they unduly judge others who remain passive in the face of sexual harassment. Researchers performed five studies, summarized in the article, on the responses of individuals to passive victims. Observers taking part in the first two studies predicted they would be more confrontational when faced with sexual harassment than victims generally are, and they judged the passive victims more harshly, sometimes indicating an unwillingness to work with those victims or to recommend them for a job.