Poll: Over half of all US adult females say they’ve been victims of sexual harassment

UPDATE — 10/27, 6:01 p.m. EDT: On Friday, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) became the fifth female politician in Washington to make sexual harassment allegations against a male colleague.  Earlier this week, four Democratic senators, Heidi Heitkamp, Claire McCaskill, Mazie Hirono and Elizabeth Warren, made similar claims on NBC’s Meet the Press.

Ms. Speier posted a video on YouTube, linked through her congressional Twitter account, which told the story of being sexually assaulted by a male superior while she worked as a Capitol Hill staffer.  

Speier later told ABC News the colleague in-question was former California Democratic Congressman Leo Ryan’s then-chief of staff, Joe Holsinger, who died in 2004.


A new ABC News/Washington Post poll has been published where an estimated 54 percent of women in the U.S. say that they have received unwanted sexual advances from a man.  The survey was conducted in the aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein scandal where many Hollywood actresses and female politicians have come forward claiming to have received unwanted sexual advances from powerful men in their respective industries.

More women have been willing to come forward following the latest scandal via social media using the ”metoo” hashtag.  Historically, reliable statistics on sexual harassment have been hard to come by as victims are reluctant to admit such incidents.

For example, interviews by The Hill found around 15 females working in state politics who say they are chronically harassed by their male colleagues.

“The thing here is the power dynamics. If an elected official does something to me, there is no way it’s going to be beneficial to speak out,” said Kady McFadden, deputy director of the Sierra Club’s Illinois chapter.

Of all American women, 75 percent of all respondents said sexual harassment was a “problem” with 64 percent of those saying it was a problem also stating it was a “serious” problem.  In the last question, 65 percent of all respondents said they believed that harassers “get away with it” while 21 percent contend “they are punished for it.”

The ABC News/Washington Post poll asked six questions and sampled 520 males and 740 females.

Questions two through five in the survey were asked of female respondents only.  The second question is shown in the image above and concerns whether respondents received unwanted male advances, with 30 percent saying it happened at work.

The third question asked whether those who experienced these advances consider the experience to be sexual harassment (79 percent) or sexual abuse (33 percent).  In the fourth question, only 42 percent of those who have experienced harassment said they reported the incident.

The graph below summarized the fifth question regarding women’s feelings about these advances, with anger being the most common feeling.

The survey was administered by phone in Spanish as well as English, but demographics of the respondents were not reported.

Investigating whether different groups have different opinions on this issue could also reveal interesting patterns.  Likewise, it may have been interesting if the survey had asked more questions of the male respondents on how they felt about sexual harassment.


[Roll Call]