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Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Sexual Harassment in the United States, 2018

Anita Raj, Nicole Johns, Rupa Jose
Journal of Interpersonal Violence 2019 April 11, : 886260519842171
This study was designed to assess racial/ethnic disparities in victimization from sexual harassment and assault by sex in the United States, and to assess racial/ethnic differences in depression/anxiety as a consequence of sexual harassment or assault, among those victimized. In January 2018, the organization Stop Street Harassment led a nationally representative online survey regarding lifetime experiences of sexual harassment and assault with women and men aged 18+ ( N = 2,009). We used sex-stratified multinomial logistic regression models to assess racial/ethnic differences in (a) self-reported victimization from these sexual abuses and (b) depression/anxiety due to these abuses among those reporting victimization. Eighty-one percent (81%) of women and 43% of men reported victimization from sexual harassment (27% and 6% indicating sexual assault, for women and men, respectively). Among those reporting harassment or assault, 30.8% of women and 19.8% of men reported depression or anxiety as a consequence. We found no significant racial/ethnic disparities in victimization from sexual harassment or assault among women, although an insignificant trend of increased risk for harassment was seen for Hispanic relative to White women (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 1.95, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.95, 3.99). Black relative to White men had lower odds of reporting sexual harassment (AOR = 0.53, 95% CI = 0.30, 0.93), and Hispanic relative to White men had higher odds of reporting sexual assault (AOR = 2.17, 95% CI = 1.06, 4.45). No racial/ethnic differences were observed for women or men in likelihood of depression or anxiety as a consequence of this abuse. These findings highlight the ubiquity of sexual harassment and assault, especially for women, with increased risk for Hispanics relative to Whites. In addition, findings demonstrate mental health effects of these types of abuses regardless of sex and race/ethnicity. Broad social change is needed to support prevention and intervention efforts with intersectional and trauma-informed approaches.


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