What makes some institutions and businesses more likely to experience a constant problem with sexual harassment and abuse than others? Why do sexual harassers and abusers seem to be able to flourish in one field and not another?
In recent history, it seems like there has been a steady stream of stories of abuse in certain industries and institutions — far more so than others. Sexual abuse and harassment stories keep coming out the sporting industry, the entertainment industry, the field of higher academics and religious institutions, for example — while other businesses and industries seem largely to have only isolated incidents that are quickly exposed and handled.
It may very well be the desire to avoid the scandals associated with predatory behavior that allow sexual harassment and abuses to flourish in the first place. Essentially, everything from a sense of loyalty to the company or the institution to the fear that important money connections will be lost if the misconduct becomes public ends up playing in favor of the perpetrators of abuse and harassment. People are so genuinely afraid of seeing a scandal destroy something that they either love or have worked hard to create (or both) that they’ll cover up instances of sexual harassment and abuse rather than expose them.
Crisis-management experts say that “institutional cultures” help create conditions that allow predatory behavior to keep growing. Problems with sexual abuses and harassment may even become a sort of open secret at times inside the institution or company, with no one willing to expose it and put a stop to it for fear of what will happen if the greater public becomes aware of the problem.
This is exactly the opposite of what really needs to happen if sexual predators are to be stopped. Companies and institutions need to take their lessons from the various scandals that have happened in recent years. The victims of sexual abuse and harassment are unwilling to be silenced any longer, and the fallout from trying to cover up predatory behavior on the part of influential or powerful figures in their industry will be tremendous — far worse than it would be if those in a position of power are proactive today.