Real stories of sexual comments and assault at work show that Harvey Weinstein is one small part of a much larger problem.

Sarah Klein
October 10, 2017

Last week’s New York Times report revealing decades of sexual harassment allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein—and the subsequent New Yorker investigation documenting accounts of assault and rape—sparked an important conversation online among people who have experienced sexual assault at work.

High-profile women like Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Rose McGowan have now opened up about being harassed and abused by Weinstein. Yet sexual harassment on the job is undeniably and disappointingly common among regular folks too, as writer Anne T. Donahue made clear this week.

“When did you meet YOUR Harvey Weinstein?” Donahue tweeted. She went on to offer her own story as a potent example. “I was a 17-yr-old co-op student and he insisted on massaging my shoulders as I typed. He was my boss at a radio station and liked to me things like why ‘girls my age’ liked giving blow jobs and not having sex. A GREAT TIME.” [sic]

By Tuesday her tweet had nearly 13,000 likes, more than 5,100 retweets, and 5,000 comments. These real people sharing their own stories of abuse makes it apparent that Weinstein is just one small part of the problem.

Sexual harassment at work was once considered something women had to put up with to get ahead in their careers. Even though harassment is now illegal, high-powered bosses are still getting away with it, causing physical, mental, and emotional ramifications that can’t just be swept under the rug.

“Sexual harassment in the workplace can impair work productivity or undermine feelings of success or ability to succeed,” says Keri Moran-Kuhn, associate director of the Oregon Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence. If the behavior is confined to unwanted comments, it may also cause fear about it escalating to assault or violence, she says. And sexual assault and violence can lead to self-blame, shame, eating disorders, and depression, she says.

RELATED: 3 Real Women on What It’s Really Like to Stand Up to a Groper

Indeed, sexual-assault survivors are at an increased risk for mental health conditions like eating disorders, substance abuse, self-harm, and post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). Depression is also a common consequence of assault and harassment: A Penn State study found that people who were sexually harassed at work were more likely to experience depression symptoms later in life, even after the researchers accounted for a history of depression and previous harassment.