Sexual Misconduct in Pennsylvania
Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. In the workplace alone, 81% of women experience sexual harassment, while 20% of men do as well. *
Sexual misconduct is preventable through collaborations of community members at all levels – in homes, neighborhoods, schools and campuses, faith settings, workplaces and in public. Everyone plays a role in prevention and in establishing communities that promote respect, safety and equality.
Against Your Will is Against the Law
Be informed and empowered by learning your rights in Pennsylvania. Know that experiencing sexual misconduct – whether it is verbal or physical – is never your fault.
The Crime Victims’ Rights Act outlines the rights afforded to victims in federal criminal cases, including the right to be reasonably protected from the accused and the right to be reasonably heard.
The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, ancestry, age, sex, national origin, handicap and disability. The PHRC’s jurisdiction covers complaints of sexual harassment both in the workplace and as related to public accommodations. This includes access to all commonwealth facilities and services. You must file a complaint with the PHRC within 180 days of the alleged act of harassment.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits workplace discrimination of many forms and requires employers to investigate all complaints and take action if they find that sexual harassment has occurred.
Chapter 62A of Title 42 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, also known as the Protection of Victims of Sexual Violence or Intimidation Act, provides victims of sexual violence or intimidation a civil remedy that requires the offender to stay away from the victim regardless of whether the victim seeks criminal prosecution. This is applicable only to victims who do not have a family or household member relationship with the defendant.
Title 18 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, Section 3104, commonly referred to as “The Rape Shield Law,” limits a defendant’s ability to introduce evidence or cross-examine rape complainants about their past sexual behavior that might undermine their credibility during proceedings.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 protects from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal funding.
Act 29 of 2019 strengthened the rights and resources available to victims of sexual offenses who choose to have sexual assault evidence collected. The law also requires victims to be notified related to the status of their sexual assault evidence kit if the victim requests such notification. See this fact sheet from PCAR for more.
I Want to Take a Stand as a Citizen
There is a social context that surrounds sexual misconduct. To break the cycle, it will take many citizens to be a voice for change. You can
• Know that sexual harassment and violence can effect anyone, regardless of their gender, race, income or job.
• Be aware of social norms that contribute to sexual misconduct, such as the traditional constructs of masculinity and the subjugation of women.
• Be an upstander. If you feel safe doing so, speak up when you see or hear instances of sexual misconduct happening around you.
• Believe an individual if they report an incident of sexual misconduct to you.
• Stay calm and help victims find assistance. Resources are available here.
• Sign the Governor’s It’s On Us Pledge and share it on social media platforms.
I Want to Take a Stand as an Employer
As an employer, it is your duty to provide a safe working environment for your employees. You should:
• Establish a sexual misconduct workplace policy and procedures for addressing issues that arise. The EEOC provides direction to employers on this.
• Understand that even if sexual misconduct does not occur in the workplace, it brings potential economic consequences, such as absenteeism, diminished productivity and loss of personnel.
• Know that employees have rights that are protected by law.
• Recognize that employees who are experiencing sexual misconduct in the workplace will feel oppressed and powerless. They may have anxiety or shame.
• Have an open door policy so that employees can speak with any manager they’re comfortable with.
• Communicate about sexual misconduct in the workplace. Let your employees know your stance by frequently including statistics, trainings and articles in team meetings.
What Can I Do if I’ve Experienced Sexual Misconduct?
You have options. You do not have to go through this alone. If you have experienced sexual misconduct and need guidance about what to do, you can reach out to your local victim services provider for help. You will find trained victim services staff who can talk with you about common reactions, the options you have and facilitate referrals as appropriate.
There is no easy first step to dealing with sexual misconduct. Here are some steps you can take on your own, if you aren’t comfortable filing a report.
1. It’s important to keep a record of every incident. Save harassing notes, emails or pictures.
2. If you feel safe doing so, you should tell your offender to stop the behavior that is bothering to you. You can do so face-to-face or in writing.
3. Research your employer’s policies on harassment in the workplace.
4. If you feel comfortable doing so, speak with your supervisor or human resource office.
Further options are available to you through your local law enforcement agencies. Additionally, you have a right to file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) if you believe you have been the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace.
Locate Resources in Your County
Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape
Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Time's Up Legal Defense Fund
*RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) and Atlantic Training 2017