We live in a society dominated by men, and so it comes as no surprise if we hear or see abuse and harassment committed against women. Wife battery, sexual harassment, acts of lasciviousness, rape, and even slander are among the most common offenses the men and other women alike commit against women. However, there is another face to the coin. Where the world presents abused women, an interesting growth is happening among men being abused and harassed—by women and men alike.
While it is no longer surprising now that many have come out, the society still cannot listen to such a tale without gasping for air even just once. Besides, culture dictates that it is supposed to be a male-dominated society; this is true, despite vigilant calls against discrimination including that which tackles gender. Thus, every time a man comes out in the open to tell his story of how he suffered in his relationship, his home, or in his workplace, there is always a tinge of disbelief. Worse, there is a sensation that makes one laugh or throw up.
Yet this is reality. Everyday, men and women are equally being beaten, harassed, and abused, physically, mentally, psychologically, economically, and emotionally. Everyday, men are contemplating on coming out to champion themselves without hurting their perpetrators back without legal means. Everyday, men are coming out. Yet on all those days, there are people who condemn such actions—and such men.
It is not at all unexpected. Men are known for their strength, agility, power, and aggressiveness. Thus, when men are coming out claiming that their wives, girlfriends, bosses, or parent beat them or acted maliciously against them, it is hard for people to accept. In a society where the men rule over the women, the mere sound of a man admitting to being beaten by a wife turns out crazy. The thought of a man being harassed sexually by the boss is even crazier.
The way the culture has brought people up makes it hard for people to believe male victims. In some instances, audiences and spectators will even create a story where the man is making up the abuse to get something out from the case, monetary for instance. In other cases, people do not sympathize with male victims because they are thinking that he will be strong enough to face his issue—besides, men are way so stronger then women that they often do not cry over sad occurrences. As an old song goes, boys don’t cry.
Yet times have changed. Today is a society where every one regardless of gender is capable of expressing emotions, whether by crying or some other means. Today is a culture where what people deems impossible are becoming possible, regardless if one can explain them or not. Most of all, it is a period of completely changed men and women. It is not astonishing at all if their roles in inflicting pain and suffering have changed as well. Thus, it is possible that women are hurting men, in the same way that men can abuse other men.
This social stigma which accompanies male sexual harassment affects the victims most of all. Because the society has a tendency to laugh at the problem and the men who are coming out, some even being dubbed homosexual and being called by names, men who are being violated find it hard to communicate about their ordeals. Obviously, a male victim would want to come out. Why not? It will save him from the issue and relieve him. Yet too many factors can overpower this desire and overwhelm the victim. First, the male victim is afraid to be laughed at. Especially if the man maintains a macho image, it is difficult to come out and admit of being abused.
Secondly, male victims are afraid to come out because people will find it hard to believe. Sure there are people who will empathize with him but he cannot guarantee their support. With a weird case as this, it is easy for people to decline support for fear to be dubbed as equally weird. Thus, the absence of probable support makes it hard for men to speak up and use their strength to solve this issue.
Thirdly, men have ego. Of course, girls have ego too but when it comes to sexual abuse, men are more sensitive to hurting their ego than the women. While women are after proving their perpetrators wrong and humiliating them, for men it is much more humiliating for themselves rather than their perpetrators. This pre-position to coming out for being sexually abused stops men from doing so.
Fourth, the law has weak bearings on abused men as compared to abused women. While this is continually being changed and straightened, it is not enough to push today’s men to come out and serve their cases to justice. With a weak coverage from the law and the tendency to loose the case, matched with the humiliation that comes with the case, it is doubly harder for men to admit that they are being abused.
But it is a truth that no joke or disbelief should dispel. It should be well accepted that offices around the world have problems about sexual harassment in one way or another. Regardless of position, men can be victimized as the issue does not choose according to personality, physique, or other perimeters. But why is the workplace a popular field for male sexual harassment cases? What can prove that it is really happening? How is the society dealing with this truth—and why is it still hard for men, victims and mere spectators alike, to come out and seek justice for their causes?
Sexual harassment in the workplace has been a long debated issue. Lawmakers have repeatedly revised and appended the jurisdiction of the courts to cover all of its aspects. Victims are more vigilant than ever to come out. Men are coming out just the same. The workplace is becoming a playground for such incidences.
Harassment chooses no location or person. Perpetrators may not look at the physical aspect of their supposed victim—they may opt to choose a victim out of necessity—easier to corner, easier to victimize, weaker in terms of not coming out and seeking help, silent, and quiet. The workplace is not an exception. With a culture that is different from the outside, it should not be surprising. Or is it?
A workplace woe
There are two deliberate ways in which sexual harassment can be done at work. One is when someone asks another to give something sexual for a favor. Another is when someone leaves a remark of sexual nature to another. In either case, it is harassment if the other, or the subject of the remark, finds the action or remark offensive. In any case, the employer who has knowledge of the case is liable unless it makes certain actions to give justice to the situation. Firms should also have clear records of information that details what victims can do, where to go and seek help, or who to talk to. (Sexual harassment in the workplace, 2006) Sexual harassment does not choose professions as well. No organization is immune to it. Contrarily, organizations may be prone to it if they have poor regulations.
What can never hide the reality of sexually-harassed men is the growing number of incidences being recorded every year. As Peterson (2003) puts it, men can become victims of sexual abuse too. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claims that in 2006, of the 12,925 sexual harassment claims filed to authorities, 15.4% were violations against men. This was a 4.5% increase compared to the statistics of the last ten years. (Griff, 2007)
Interestingly, Tahmincioglu (2007) describes the trend differently. She states that with the way the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is presenting the data, and if the numbers are going to speak for themselves, the total number of sexual harassment cases is in fact declining. However, more men than ever have been filing claims of sexual harassment or abuse against women and other men. The numbers are tremendous in that within a 15-year timeframe, the cases have doubled. As proof, there were almost 2,000 claims charged in 2006—a significant rise in the statistics.
Of all varied forms
Male abuse can take into many forms. It can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic or financial, and even spiritual. (Spousal abuse, 2006) Sexual abuse can be the most inexplicable at that sex should be between men and women who agree to do it. In connection, if there would be abuse, the more aggressive nature of men is most likely to rule and abuse women sexually rather than the other way around. Yet this is happening. At worst, it is not only happening inside homes and families. It is taking men at a global corporate scale.
Many cases of sexual harassment against men happen in the workplace. For some, it is between a superior and a male colleague. For much many, it can be between a superior and an underline. The case gets worse when the superior has an edge against that other man. Many cases of sexual harassment where the victims are adult males happened in the workplace.
There are two most misunderstood violent crimes of all: sexual assault and intimate partner violence. It is inexplicable how a person can be driven to do something that can be psychologically averted, especially with the fact that that thing is prohibited by law. It is even more inexplicable how a person sharing intimacy with another can become violent to this supposed partner. In the course of the study, it becomes even more bothering if these abuses happen to men. For majority of the people, sexually abusing men is just so hard to believe. (Myths and Facts about Male Victimization, 2007)
The society has fashioned the public into several notions about sexual abuse. Most notions led to making sexual abuse exclusive to women as becoming victims and men as the abusers. These notions created a wall of fallacies. Thus, the society finds it hard to believe that this is really happening. Because men are posed and presented as the ones holding primacy over women; because men were dubbed as the policy makers and trend setters; because men were historically influential and powerful, it is impossible for any men to fall prey to anything. Yet the facts are revealing.
Studies have showed that 50% of predators would victimize men and women alike. This gives them equal chance of getting preyed on, regardless of their gender. This also does not lessen the chance of men on getting victimized. With equal percentage such as this, men are as much prone to becoming sexually abused as women. (Myths and facts about male victimization, 2007)
Yet records show that there are virtually more women victims than men. This makes it improbable to say that this is becoming more than just a simple social dilemma. As the sexual abuse on men especially in workplaces happen, it is becoming more and more serious.
What is inexplicable is often a root of false beliefs. When people cannot fully understand a phenomenon, or do not believe it, this alleged phenomenon becomes a source of many assumptions. When this fictional information arise, the totality of the situation becomes even more blurred.
As it goes, there are also several beliefs about male victimization that can be untrue. For one, people believe that sexually harassed men are a minority. In fact, the cases between men and women are almost equal until the age of twelve which dispels this myth. Yet this myth is not at all alone. Many people also believe that as adults, it is not normal for men to be abused or harassed especially sexually whether by women or other men. However, researches show that one in every six men is sexually harassed for at least once in their lifetime. It also turns out that there is no safe place. Victimization can happen at home, in the school, or even at work. (Myths and facts about male victimization, 2007) With the workplace’s atmosphere of stress, leader-follower roles, superiority and downlining, the phenomenon sets in.
The workplace is a feasible nest for such occurrences. As much as there is a power and control play in rape incidences, there is also a power and control interplay in the workplace which can lead to abuses, even sexual. Sexual abuse, being a question of primacy, is not surprising where the boss-underline role is rampant. It is so possible that it is surprising how the society can have a different perception on the issue.
As it is misunderstood, men are experiencing too much difficulty in revealing their issues and asking for help. Men may feel awkward sharing these unbelievable experiences to others. They may feel embarrassment, shame, and even uncertainty and denial that it really happened to them. Charcas and Keith (2005) claim that there is enough law for such issues, but they are not strong enough to protect men when a case arises. Whether it is not enough, or the law is good but the implementation is not, is a question waiting for a comprehensive answer. In the workplace, while a company may have clear cut regulations about these cases, it is still difficult for a man to approach human resources and seek help. In such cases where the men are willing to come out, they often face serious consequences that they carry throughout their stay in the company. More if they lose the case, they may become professionally marked for life.
Of men, women, and gays
Another area of misunderstanding in terms of male sexual harassment is the capacity of people to do it gender-wise. There is always the question of whether men, women, or those in between are capable of doing such. There is a constant question of which gender is more capable of doing such as compared to others. Will it be other men, women, or the homosexual?
There is a notion that a sexual assault case against a boy or a man has a gay to blame. However, studies have found that majority of male sexual abusers are heterosexuals. Studies also found that gay men are not inclined into engaging at sexual assaults. This once again asserts the fact that sexual abuse is not all about gender or sexuality but about power and control. (Myths and facts about male victimization, 2007) It is also amusing that gays will be less likely perpetrators in these cases, this is a truth that many studies have already proven. With the homosexual ruled out, will the women and men be the ones accountable?
Heterosexuals are not the only ones who are deemed perpetrators. The other population may even come as a surprise for some. Contrary to popular belief, women can also become sexual abusers. What is more disturbing is that women can abuse both men and boys, though naturally the incidence is less likely. (Myths and facts about male victimization, 2007) Peterson (2003) seconds this, saying that women can be perpetrators of men too.
Women abusers can be classified into specific characteristics. For one, women who abuse men, whether their partner or not, are often alcoholics. Because alcohol influences the body to bear less self-control and less impulse, women can be inclined to violence and poor judgment. This results in abusive behavior to others, including men. (What are the characteristics of an abusive woman?, 2007)
Psychology can also explain how women who are believed to be the less strong sex can become abusive especially toward men. Borderline personality disorder which is present in many women—about up to 2% of over-all population—can affect the way in which they treat men. It can prod them into violence and other destructive behavior, making what is otherwise impossible for women to do feasible. Studies show that 50% of all abuses against men is caused by women having borderline personality disorder. (What are the characteristics of an abusive woman?, 2007)
Lastly, women can become unrealistic towards their relationship with men. This is widely relative to borderline personality disorder. Women can experience bouts of depression and other psychologically incapacitating symptoms which can make them able to abuse men. When they feel that something wrong is happening in their lives, they would blame it on men and make men pay for those events in their lives. This results in sexually abusive behavior to male partners or even to male strangers. (What are the characteristics of an abusive woman?, 2007)
There are many ways in which a woman can victimize a man sexually. While it is most unlikely that it will occur in a domestic partnership, the possibility cannot be ruled out. Women can coerce their partners to make love with them even if the male partner is not interested. The school and communal organizations are also likely to develop such incidence. Most especially, women in the workplace, especially those whose position is higher or much lower, can use sex to their advantage.
People also have the notion that when men get victimized sexually, they are most likely to become gays or homosexuals later in their lives. However, statistics showed that men who become victims do not become homosexuals. Moreover, male sexual victimization has little to no effect on their sexual orientations. Thus, despite the probability, male victims can still grow as real men with proper education and guidance in their sexuality. (Myths and facts about male victimization, 2007)
It can be believed that sexual abuse in the workplace can be committed by the ones with higher positions towards those who have lower positions. This, however, cannot be generalized. There can also be a possibility where downliners sexually harass persons of a higher position, and this is more critical as a man with a higher position will find it even more difficult to deal with a sexual abuse complaint filing.
People may also deem former victims as a new breed of perpetrators. While this can be a half-truth because it actually happens often that former victims become abusers themselves, this is not always the case. Thus, it cannot be justified that a male victim can become a perpetrator later in life automatically. Yet, it is equally important to guide the victims to prevent such cycle from happening. (Myths and facts about male victimization, 2007)
A startling revelation that came with the growing number of male sexually abused victims is the fact that many cases are left unreported. More male abuse cases revolve around domestic violence. In fact, 03,220 or 15% cases of domestically abused male partners have been recorded. (Prevalence of domestic violence, 2007) The number of sexual abuse cases is still yet to catch up.
Secondly, men know that the society does not yet entirely accept that men can become sexually harassed and even abused too. With this truth, they feel hesitant to put their case forward as they know that there is more probability of getting scrutiny than help. They also consider that stepping out will put their credibility at stake. As they loose their cover, they also loose control over their own selves.
Lastly, men can always say no. Because they are strong and they are often overpowering, men are most likely to be able to avert any act against their will. This cannot be all the time possible with women. Men can use their intellect, their physical strength, and other faculties to intercept any impending danger into their person before it happens.
However, the real number of cases may be higher for both domestic violence and sexual abuse cases. The Family Violence Prevention Fund estimates that the annual cases can be as high as 960,000 cases nationally; and three million cases globally. Women are more probable to report abuse than men because men may feel embarrassed to admit that they are being abused. It is doubly harder especially if the abuser is a female partner or a female colleague. (Prevalence of domestic violence, 2007)
With this, it is probable that there is no real rise in the cases itself. Many sources assert that aside from considering that there are a growing number of sexual harassment cases globally, it is worth considering that it is the reports which are increasing and not the cases. Thus, it could be that the cases have been there just waiting to be uncovered.
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Sexual harassment against men is happening in the workplace. This is a conclusive statement that many studies have proven. It is happening in firms big and small, as much as it is happening in schools, organizations, and other places. It is happening to men as much as it is happening to women. Yet the society is yet to find these facts as a norm.
The number of cases of the different forms in which men can be sexually harassed is in a steep climb. The increase is surprising, but scholars do not deem them as a tangible proof that the cases are on the rise. While the margin between women abuses and those against men are thinning, the desire of men and confidence to seek help and come out is widening. Thus, more than the rise in cases there is a rise in the reports. As more men are becoming willing to come out, the cases continue to grow giving an impression that the occurrence of the cases itself is on the rise.
As abuse takes it many forms, sexual abuse is deemed as among the top most serious. Sexual harassment can be done in many ways. It can happen in any location. It can happen any time. Most of all, it can happen to anyone. With the acceptance of the fact that it is happening to men, it just keeps getting more serious.
Yet male sexual harassment is misunderstood. In the part of the victims, it is hard to explain how it can happen to them. It is even harder to explain to other people, making it hard for them to seek help. In the part of the members of the society, it is hard to understand how men can be victimized. It is difficult for people to acknowledge that a man who is otherwise the aggressive aspect of a sexual union can be overpowered sexually and be harassed.
Because male sexual harassment is misunderstood, many false beliefs toward this came about. Thankfully, continuous studies on the subject gave light to the gray areas of the phenomenon.
For one, women are not the only ones who can be sexually harassed. The same is true especially in the workplace. Men are equally prone to experiencing sexual abuse and harassment. Statistics have proven this time and again.
Boys and young men are not the only ones who can fall prey to sexual harassment and abuse. Adult men, regardless of position, capabilities, and level of strength can be victimized just the same. Adult victimization is most common in the workplace than anywhere else. In connection, there are also myths about the perpetrators which has to be dispelled.
Men and women are more likely to be the perpetrators of men in a sexual abuse case. While majority of the people believe that men are most likely to fall prey with homosexuals, gays are not at all interested in committing such. Men who do it are more often heterosexual, and the women doing it are not necessarily intimate or domestic partners. This has opened another fact at that strangers can be likewise abusers.
An important conclusion is that many cases still go unreported. Male victims and the society are just not prepared for talking about male sexual harassment. This underreporting makes it impossible to extend help to those men in need. As long as men resist trusting other people and the authorities in their cases, the law—however strong or foolproof it can be—can do little or none to those in need.
As it has now been an established fact that male sexual harassment is happening, several sub-issues surrounding it must be addressed. Two main issues that need refining is the fact that people are not outright on believing these cases, and the men are not comfortable seeking help for their causes. With these issues addressed, the core concerns underlying male sexual harassment can be solved. Overall, sexual harassment as a whole including against men can be alleviated.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is continuing to be a subtle social problem that bites without getting seen. It works at its advantage. With less noise in its part, perpetrators are freely victimizing when the opportunity hits. Yet there are measures that may be done to alleviate the problem.
For one, workers should be able to erase the humor injected in male sexual harassment cases. It can be funny as it is something people can be not used to hearing, but this humor is not a welcome remark to solving such a serious problem. Any other reactions that may be overly improper should be likewise avoided. As much as people would not like to be laughed at, people will also not want to feel that they are being pitied upon or given special consideration just because of their case. Workers should treat the problem such as it may happen to them.
Education is another important recommendation. Workers should be trained as to how to protect the privacy of the man seeking help, as much as know where to get help and how. They should be vigilant not to divulge the name of the victim to anyone until such time that the victim is ready to face the consequences of coming out.
People should also be trained as to where help should be seeked. Apart from this, they should be familiar as to how the processes should be. This move will further protect the victim from being feasted upon especially by the media or other public. This will likewise protect the law embodying the case. This is a especially important aspect of education.
As much as the workers should be prepared, victims should also receive education, information, and encouragement. As men are not keen to coming out, information should be disseminated to the general public. This will encourage those who are under cover to come out and seek the help that they deserve. With proper information, they will also be able to protect their interests and persons. Psychiatry services should likewise be readily available.
Time can only tell when male sexual harassment can be accepted with sympathy rather than mockery. It is only the collective psychological development, education, and preparedness of the workers and the society as a whole that can start the solution to totally eliminating the problem. The coming-out option is a hard choice to make, and with this it should be ruled out that coming out is the best thing to solve the problem. Stricter punishments and implementations can go a long way. Likewise, means of confidentially asking for help and assistance will encourage victims to stop the guessing game and bring some real action to what has forever been a passive corporate and societal concern.
Griff. 2007. Male sexual harassment in the workplace on the rise. Retrieved November 30, 2007, from http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/175980/male_sexual_harassment_in_the_work.html
Eve Tahmincioglu. 2007. Male Sexual Harassment Claims On The Rise In Workplace. Retreived November 30, 2007, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2007/07/09/male-sexual-harassment-cl_n_55490.html
Myths & Facts about Male Victimization. 2007. Retrieved December 2, 2007, from http://oregonstate.edu/sexualassault/male_myths.htm
What are the characteristics of an abusive woman?. 2007. Retrieved December 2, 2007, from http://www.wadv.org/maleabuse.htm
Charcas, A. and Keith, C. 2005. Retrieved December 1, 2007, from http://pegasus.cc.ucf.edu/~co466723/history.html
Prevalence of domestic violence. 2007. Retrieved December 2, 2007, from http://endabuse.org/resources/facts/
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Spousal abuse. 2006. Retrieved December 2, 2007, from http://canada.justice.gc.ca/en/ps/fm/spouseafs.html