If Unreported, Sexual Harassment Can Lead to "Double Victimization"

When an individual is subjected to mistreatment, it is human nature for outsiders to feel empathy for that mistreated person. However, new research suggests that when it comes to mistreatment characterized by sexual harassment, observers tend to condemn victims they believe to be passive in response to this mistreatment.

Experts from top universities Northwestern, Brigham Young, Utah, and Notre Dame recently released a study entitled "Double Victimization in the Workplace: Why Observers Condemn Passive Victims of Sexual Harassment." The study examines the criticisms that observers heap on so-called passive victims of sexual harassment.

In essence, employees tend to believe that they will stand up to sexual harassment in certain ways, should it ever occur to them. As a result, when others fail to live up to this standard, the observer employees condemn the seemingly passive victim.

In a challenging twist of fate, however, employees who believe that they will boldly stand up to sexual harassment usually fail to do so. This false predictor of their own behavior leads them to condemn others who behave in ways that they falsely believe they will not, should they ever find themselves in the victims' shoes.

In responding to victims of sexual harassment in this way, observers contribute to the double victimization of those who have been mistreated. They are first subjected to sexual harassment and then to the condemnation of their fellow co-workers for not responding to the mistreatment in what may be perceived as bold enough ways.

You may believe that you know how you will react in a certain situation. But because you can never be sure until you are in that situation, it may be best to behave with compassion towards victims rather than with condemnation.