It’s been a tiring year for women fighting against sexual harassment.
More perpetrators of sexual harassment and assault seem to be unmasked every day. But the hard work of activists, advocates, and brave women around the world who have come forward to share their stories is finally paying off, according to a new study by research firm Perry-Undem.
When Perry-Undem conducted a similar study last year, it found that men substantially underestimated just how common sexual harassment and assault really are. But the results of its surveys this year show promising signs of shifting attitudes and increased awareness among Americans in general.
In October, the New York Times published an investigative report into accusations of sexual misconduct made against movie producer Harvey Weinstein. Sexual harassment has been a hot topic in the media ever since.
In fact, 43% of men surveyed in the recent study said the news coverage of sexual harassment and assault has made them reflect on their past interactions with women and whether or not they might have been interpreted as inappropriate.
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After the Weinstein scandal broke, hundreds of thousands of women around the world responded to the news on social media using the hashtag #MeToo to share their stories and demonstrate how widespread the issue of sexual harassment is.
Since then, many allegations of sexual misconduct by men in film, TV, and politics have emerged, and as several of the accused are finally facing repercussions for their actions, those stories now seem to dominate the news cycle.
The news coverages seem to have helped increase awareness around the problem: 79% of all people polled said they have been following the reports of sexual assault and harassment allegations in Hollywood and politics.
But the news of Weinstein’s decades of misbehavior and the #MeToo movement weren’t the sole triggers of this nation-wide awakening. The new report actually traces the beginning of the shift in attitudes back to well before this October.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Tresa Undem, the study’s lead author, said that the “Access Hollywood” tape that came to light last October — in which Donald Trump is overheard saying he attempted to kiss and touch women without consent — and this January’s Women’s March "really contributed to the atmosphere we’re in right now," Salon reported.
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The discussion around sexual harassment and gender equality isn’t just limited to the media, the study found. Two-thirds of men surveyed said they had talked about the allegations in the news with women, and more than 70% of people said they have discussed issues of women’s equality with friends and family members in the past year, whereas only 49% said they had last year.
People are finally beginning to recognize the magnitude of this problem and other forms of gender discrimination — 87% of people surveyed said men have more positions of power in society, compared with 65% of people who believed that last year.
And they’re no longer happy for those men to exploit those positions of power without consequence.
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The survey results showed that 95% of people think there must be investigations into accusations of sexual misconduct made against politicians, while 69% of those polled said that the US would be better of with more women in office, a 17% increase from last year.
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