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Poll examines evolving Iowa attitudes about sexual harassment

With the growing number of people who are coming forward with their experience with sexual harassment in Iowa and across the nation, research is being conducted to gauge how prevalent and widespread the problem is. One study from the Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa indicates that around one in four women in the state had dealt with sexual harassment at work in the past three years. Sexual harassment is defined as co-workers giving unwanted sexual attention. That includes making comments and physical contact.

The poll centered on women who worked outside the home. Forty-one percent stated that they had been subjected to this treatment at some juncture while they worked. Men were also confronted with sexual harassment as nine percent said they have had it happen to them in their careers. Two percent say it happened in the previous three years. Some who took part in the poll stated they believed they could not tell what happened to them publicly due to the potential issues at work. Others mentioned unwanted physical contact, inappropriate comments and flirting that turned aggressive.

Although an increasing number of powerful people are being punished for sexual harassment, many people in Iowa are reluctant to believe that the behavior will completely end and victims will be prepared to speak out. Forty-six percent say that the change will inspire people to speak; 45 percent say the behavior will continue. Prior polls were far different than this one. In 1988, a poll said that 11 percent of women who worked outside the home reported being sexually harassed.

Most Iowans - 87 percent - say that sexual harassment is an issue. There is, however, a separation on how problematic it is. Sixty-one percent of women say it is a major problem; 38 percent of men say the same. Forty-four percent of men say it is a minor problem; 31 percent say the same. Eight percent say it is not a real problem. Women are less fearful about reporting sexual harassment today than they were in 1988. Then around 25 percent said they reported it. Now, it is 45 percent.

What these numbers show is that, despite the number of people who are coming forward and the attention being paid to the problem, a victim of harassment might still be frightened about reporting it. A legal professional can be helpful in pursuing a case and seeking compensation after sexual harassment.

Source: desmoinesregister.com, "Iowa Poll: 41 percent of Iowa women report experiencing workplace sexual harassment," Brianne Pfannenstiel, Dec. 16, 2017

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