Young, attractive women more likely to be believed in accusations of sexual harassment

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Young, attractive women more likely to be believed in accusations of sexual harassment
Young, attractive women more likely to be believed in accusations of sexual harassment

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Young, attractive women are more likely to be believed when making accusations of sexual harassment, according to a new study.

Researchers took inspiration from the #MeToo movement, in the hope of exploring the notion of credibility with regard to sexual harassment claims.

Their findings suggest that women who are not conventionally attractive may face greater hurdles when trying to convince an employer or a court that they have been harassed.

The team hopes the study will help people recognise that harassment can happen regardless of a person’s fit within a prototype.

Read: The link between economically vulnerable women and gender-based violence

Researchers found a perception among people that women who were young, “conventionally attractive” and feminine were more likely to be harassed.

However, women outside of these socially determined norms are more likely to be perceived as less credible and less harmed by harassment.

Study lead author Bryn Bandt-Law, a graduate psychology student at the University of Washington in the US, said: “The consequences of that are very severe for women who fall outside of the narrow representation of who a victim is.

“Non-prototypical women are neglected in ways that could contribute to their having discriminatory treatment under the law.

“People think they’re less credible and less harmed when they make a claim, and think their perpetrators deserve less punishment.”

The study was inspired by the #MeToo movement which became a social phenomenon in 2017 when actresses accused movie producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment and abuse.

#MeToo and related movements empowered individuals to come forward about their experiences with sexual harassment.

Non-prototypical women are neglected in ways that could contribute to their having discriminatory treatment under the law.
Study lead author Bryn Bandt-Law

But, as the study’s authors reflected on the celebrities who stepped forward, they wanted to explore further the notion of credibility.

The researchers conducted a series of 11 different experiments with more than 4 000 participants.

Participants were asked a series of questions including who we think is sexually harassed, what constitutes harassment and how claims of harassment are perceived.

Across all the experiments, participants perceived the targets of sexual harassment as more stereotypical than those who did not experience harassment.

Read: Gender-based-violence: All men must be accountable

When considering a non-stereotypical woman, participants were less likely to label such scenarios as sexual harassment compared with when considering stereotypical women, despite comparison in the same incident.

Some participants were also asked to draw a woman who was harassed, or not harassed, among other tests.

Results show participants generally perceived sexual harassment victims to be prototypical women.

In fact, the link between sexual harassment and prototypical women is so strong that the same woman was seen as more prototypical when people were told she was sexually harassed. – MailOnline


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