- Most Americans (65%) now believe sexual assault is a widespread problem, according to a new survey by AmeriSpeak Spotlight on Health from the University of Chicago. When asked if news coverage from the past month, which included Justice Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court confirmation, changed their impression of how frequently women experience sexual assault, 39% of respondents said they now believe sexual assault is more common than they previously thought.
- Survey respondents said news reports on victims and social media accounts of victims' personal experiences impacted them the most. Also, 30% of respondents said their views changed when someone they know directly told them about being assaulted. About the same amount of people said they learned second-hand that someone within their community or group of friends had been assaulted.
- Viewpoints differed among age groups, with 49% of young people ages 18 to 29 saying they now think sexual assault is more common than they thought a month ago, compared with 39% of respondents overall. Respondents' views were split along gender lines as well, with men (28%) being more than twice as likely as women (13%) to view sexual assault crimes as largely isolated examples of individual misconduct.
Study results like these can help HR leaders understand general perceptions about sexual assault and sexual misconduct as they draft or re-daft policies, develop training programs on assault and sexual harassment and set up procedures for employees to report issues.
After victims of sexual assault launched the #MeToo movement, requests for sexual harassment training grew in number. An American Physiological Association study of employees found that many employers had done little to improve their handling of sexual harassment in the workplace, including prevention and training, despite the movement.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reported earlier this month that sexual harassment suits jumped by more than 50% in 2018. Employees are looking to the courts for restitution and will continue to do so if HR ignores their claims. And the EEOC has said it will continue to crack down on employers that violate the law's sexual harassment protections.
HR leaders don't need to wait for social forces to address and prevent sexual misconduct. Experts say they need to follow up on and investigate complaints, conduct in-depth training for employees and enforce policies.