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And they're justified in their fear. In one study from Lilia Cortina, professor of psychology and women's studies at the University of Michigan, two-thirds of public employees who complained of sexual harassment said they suffered retaliation after they reported.
But Cortina says in her research, the "vast majority" of sexually harassed men and women never disclose any incident.
"There are a lot of different reasons women don't report sexual harassment, but principal among them is basic fear," she says. "Fear of disbelief, of inaction, of retaliation. And we know from research that these fears are actually well-founded ... There's a lot of good reasons for not reporting these experiences when they happen to women."
When women do come forward, Cortina says, they risk a number of things: their reputations, their mental health, their social standing and even their jobs.
Cortina sees women in her research who've said they're hesitant to even begin the reporting process, let alone go through it all and name their harasser.
"Women don't want to engage in the reporting process because it's fundamentally a damaging process," she says. "Their reputations get damaged. It's distressing and humiliating to have to keep recounting your story again and again: to HR personnel, to investigators, to whoever keeps calling. Often they're met with disbelief, questions about what they were doing, what they were wearing, or just dismissive responses."