CNY Attorney: Sexual harassment is common and many victims suffer silently

EEOC task force study finds most workers don't report harassment

SYRACUSE (WSYR-TV) - As more actresses publicly accuse movie producer Harvey Weinstein of unwanted sexual advances and abuse, the case has sparked a national conversation about sexual harassment.

"It's common and it's outrageous that it is so pervasive in our society," says attorney Bryn Lovejoy-Grinnell, who serves as president of the Central New York Women's Bar Association.

Advocates for local victims say women are suffering in silence far beyond Hollywood.

"We know that this happens all over. We know that this happens in small communities, large communities with a lot of money, communities with no money at all," adds Chris Kosakowski, an educator with Vera House.

In Oswego, a recent lawsuit alleges a landlord demanded sex as payment for rent.

In Lake George, a restaurant manager is accused of sexually harassing more than a dozen workers, including a 14-year-old.

"They've been touched inappropriately. They've been subjected to very very suggestive comments," Warren County Sheriff's Office Lt. Steve Stockdale told WTEN-TV.

But, a recent Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) task force study found roughly three out of four people who experience some type of workplace harassment never even talked to a supervisor, manager or union representative about it, fearing they'd be blamed or face retaliation.

"There's a lot of fear for people that with harassment specifically, there's a little bit less proof and it sometimes does become a 'he said/she said' kind of conversation," Kosakowski explains.

In Harvey Weinstein's case, he denies any retaliation or non-consensual sex. 

The New Yorker is reporting that one model was recorded confronting him about unsolicited touching.

At one point she reportedly asks Weinstein why he touched her breasts, to which he responds, "Oh please. Sorry, Just come on. I'm used to that."

But, a Manhattan prosecutor told reporters the comments were insufficient to prove a crime.

"That's puzzling to me. When other women see that happening - she had this tape and she went forward right away, even though it was probably humiliating and embarrassing, she went forward right away and nothing happened," Lovejoy Grinnell says with concern.

Many high-profile cases have resulted in civil lawsuits, but women generally can't talk about the details publicly if they agree to a settlement. As a result, those cases may be swept under the rug for years as the number of victims multiplies.

Both Kosakowski and Lovejoy-Grinnell agree that more public conversations about sexual harassment could encourage women and men to come forward -- they feel power in numbers. 

But, a lack of accountability could have the opposite effect for some victims.

Vera House offers guidance through a 24-hour hotline: 1-315-468-3260.

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