Read the full article at USA Today.
SAN FRANCISCO — Women who are subjected to unwanted sexual advances in the workplace say they can't afford to burn bridges and often wind up leaving a trail of friendly messages behind them — continued contact that men later produce as evidence to dispute their accounts and cast doubt on their credibility.
This pattern, repeated in several high-profile business cases that have ousted men from perches of power this year, reflects the bind women routinely face in the workplace. More than half of all American women say they've been harassed on the job, but repercussions for men have been few.
"You are not going to walk up and say: You are dead to me," says Aileen Lee, a partner with venture capital firm Cowboy Ventures who belongs to an informal network of female investors. "You could potentially do more damage to yourself and to your career."
For decades, men have pointed to ongoing communication to refute the accounts of women. During Anita Hill's testimony in 1991 against Clarence Thomas, Sen. Alan Simpson, R-WY, hammered Hill on why she followed Thomas from one job to another and kept in touch with him afterward instead of formally complaining about his behavior.
“If what you say this man said to you occurred, why in God’s name when he left his position of power or status or authority over you...would you ever speak to a man like that for the rest of your life?" he asked Hill.
Hill explained she worried that deleting Thomas from her Rolodex would harm her career. "I was afraid of retaliation. I was afraid of damage to my professional life," Hill replied. "And this kind of response is not atypical."
"There is this myth that if you are really being harassed or assaulted, you will get angry and get the hell out of there," says Lilia Cortina, professor of psychology and women's studies at the University of Michigan. "People say: Why didn't she just report him? Why didn't she just leave? They don't understand all the complicated reasons why leaving is not an option."