Sexual Violence in the Workplace

Sexual assault is a general term that includes sexual harassment, unwanted sexual contact, child sexual abuse, incest, and rape. Sexual contact becomes assault when a person is unable to or does not consent to an activity. Sexual harassment includes the unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that affects an individual’s employment, interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. There are two kinds of sexual harassment: quid pro quo and hostile environments.

Quid pro quo (something for something, this for that) occurs in two situations: some kind of benefit or advancement is made conditional on giving sexual favors to someone (usually in a supervisory position), or the rejection of a sexual advance results in the loss of some kind of benefit or advancement. Hostile environments involve unwelcome sexual conduct that has the purpose or effect of interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, threatening, or offensive work atmosphere.

Facts and Figures

In 1990, 19.5% of sexual assault victims had to take time off from work. Victims of acquaintance rape were somewhat more likely to miss time from work. 79% of sexual assault victims who lost time from work lost 1-5 days; 21% lost 11 days or more.

The cost of missed work time for sexual assault is $1,261. This compares to $741 for robbery, $476 for physical assault, and $1,411 for arson.

The tangible cost of a sexual assault can be broken down as follows: $500 for short term medical care; $2,400 for mental health services; and $2,200 for lost productivity. Employers bear much of the cost of lost productivity, as well as some medical expenses.

The pain and suffering felt by sexual assault victims can affect their health and productivity for the rest of their lives. Victims are four times more likely to have an emotional breakdown than are non-victims. 25% to 50% of sexual assault victims are likely to seek mental health services and often suffer from lifelong physical manifestations of sexual trauma. This pain and suffering costs victims and society an estimated $104,900 for each sexual assault.

Ignoring problems of sexual harassment among employees costs the average Fortune 500 Company up to $6.7 million per year. This figure includes the cost of low productivity, low morale, employee turnover, and absenteeism. It does not include the cost of litigation or other legal expenses.

Violent crimes (including rape) account for 1/3 of all crime but 95% of the total cost of crime.