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Why don’t people report workplace harassment?

In some cases, when sexual harassment is reported, people ask why it wasn’t reported earlier. Maybe it comes out that a person was harassed on the job a year or two ago. Why didn’t they report it right away?

In fact, some people will try to use this fact to minimize the claims of victims by acting as if it must not be true if they waited so long to report it. This is obviously a myth, but why is it that there are delays in these reports?

1. Fear of retaliation

More than anything else, workers are afraid of retaliation from the people they are accusing. Often, these people have a higher position of power within the company. The worker may be afraid that filing their report against an executive will just lead to the termination of their position. If they’re living paycheck to paycheck, they feel like they can’t take that risk.

2. Fear of disbelief

In other cases, people don’t make a report simply because they think they won’t be believed. Maybe they even think that they’ll be blamed. They certainly don’t want to risk retaliation if there’s not going to be any positive outcome because no one believes them.

3. Internalized shame

In other cases, victims will actually blame themselves. They will feel that they should’ve done more to stop it and so they can’t make a report. Once again, this is a myth, but it can be hard for people to shake when they feel that they should have done something differently.

If you have been harassed on the job, it’s critical that you understand all the options you have. You don’t have to simply bury your feelings and take that kind of treatment.

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