Teenage Workplace Sexual Abuse

Workplace sexual abuse of teenagers has been a problem which has either been inadvertently overlooked or deliberately ignored. Neither choice is right.

A recent program on America’s Public Broadcasting System highlighted the dangers and issues.

A surprising statistic finds teenagers are more at risk from sexual predators at a part-time job than the Internet. One estimate places over 200,000 teens as being victimized in the workplace annually. Often an underreported phenomenon, some young women are speaking out publicly.

On a recent PBS show, abused teens told their stories to Maria Hinojosa, a Senior Correspondent with NOW.

Hinojosa, writing in The Huffington Post, says of the girls she interviewed, they were 16 when the sexual harassment occurred, and it was on their first job.

The girls had no idea about what was acceptable workplace behavior and even less knowledge of legal protections. Employers don’t spend money training teenage, part-time workers and workplace rules aren’t taught in school.

Despite being embarrassed and frightened, the girls “found the strength and courage” to take their abusers to court according to Hinojosa.

Sexual abuse is about an abuse of power. Anyone forced, pressured or tricked into sexual activity has experienced sexual abuse. When an individual takes advantage of someone sexually, that is sexual abuse.

Sexual abuse happens in the workplace when someone in a position of authority uses that authority for self-gratification. Teenagers, young, naive and not sure what to do, fall victims more often than many individuals realize.

State Labor Bureaus and EEOC

State labor boards and America’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission are not equipped to deal with complaints.

The program points to a survey saying 1:3 teenage workers report being sexually harassed on the job, yet the EEOC doesn’t gather birth dates when complaints are made. Tracking progress is difficult if not impossible.

Teenage victims are more apt to see their grades slip or express no interest in career building because of the experience they had.

One girl, Jennifer who lives in Las Vegas, said, “It affected my self-esteem and self-worth. It showed me my abilities and promotion would be linked to my physical appearance.”