The Prevalence of Gender-Based Violence and Harassment in the World of Work

*Note that data on gender-based violence and harassment (GBVH) are limited and often lack information on transgender and non-binary individuals, race and ethnicity, and other identities. When possible, data are included to demonstrate differences across multiple identities. Additionally, we use the language from the original study and, therefore, you will see the use of intimate partner violence, perpetrator, and victim throughout the prevalence data.

Domestic Violence:

Whether occurring within the workplace or at home, domestic and dating violence is a significant public health crisis that impacts millions of workers and their workplaces.

  • In the U.S., about 1 in 2 (59 million) women and 1 in 4 (31 million) men experienced contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime and reported some form of IPV-related impact.[i]
  • Although all races and ethnicities experience domestic and intimate partner violence, 63.8% percent of multi-racial women, 57.7% American Indian and Alaska Native women, 57.7% of Black women, 53.6% of white women, 48.4% of Hispanic women, and 27.2% of Asian or Pacific Islander women experience intimate partner violence. Among men, 57.6% of Black men, 51.5% of multi-racial men, 51.1% of American Indian or Alaska Native men, 44.0% of white men, 40.3% of Hispanic men, and 24.8% of Asian or Pacific Islander men reported experiencing domestic violence in their lifetime.[ii]
  • A 2010 study on victimization by sexual orientation found that 44% of lesbian women, 61% of bisexual women, and 35% of heterosexual women experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.[iii]
  • Transgender people are more likely to experience domestic violence and more likely to believe they are negatively impacted by this type of violence at work, but are less likely to discuss it in their workplaces.[iv]
  • In one study, one in five workers experienced the impacts of domestic violence at work. Of these workers, 66% had this type of violence perpetrated in the workplace or on their workplace premises.[v]
  • Women are much more likely than men to be victims of on-the-job intimate partner homicide. Spouses, boyfriends/girlfriends/partners and ex-boyfriends/girlfriends/partners were responsible for the on-the-job deaths of 321 women and 38 men from 1997-2009.[vi]

Sexual Assault/Violence:

Sexual violence, which can range from unwanted sexual comments and jokes to touching of a sexual nature to rape, is one of the most underreported forms of violence in the U.S. Like domestic and dating violence, sexual violence does not need to occur within the workplace to impact employees.

  • According to a 2015 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 54.3% of women and 30.7% of men in the U.S. have experienced some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime.[vii]
  • About 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men has experienced sexual coercion at some point in their lifetime. This includes acts such as being worn down by someone who repeatedly asked for sex (coerced consent), sexual pressure due to someone using their influence or authority, etc.[viii]
  • More than 1 in 4 lesbian women and almost 2 in 4 bisexual women were raped during their lifetimes. One in four gay men and more than 1 in 5 bisexual men were made to penetrate someone else during their lifetimes.[ix]

Workplace Sexual Harassment:

Sexual harassment is a well documented workplace issue that has captured public attention with the rise of the #MeToo movement. While there is no national study that measures the prevalence of workplace sexual harassment, there are numerous studies that have documented its profound prevalence and impact.

  • In the U.S., anywhere from 25% to 85% of women report having experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.[x] These numbers can vary dramatically depending on the culture of the workplace, various risk factors that might be present, and if there are significant power differences between the staff and customers/clients or leaders.
  • A 2016 survey of U.S. Government Employees conducted by the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board found that 18% of women and 6% of men indicated that they experienced at least one occasion of sexual harassment in preceding two years.[xi]
  • A 2020 report by the Hollywood Commission found that 67% of female and 62% of male respondents reported gender harassment in the previous 12 months.[xii]

Stalking:

Stalking is the most prevalent and recognizable form of abuse at work. It poses risks to the physical safety of workers, co-workers, and customers/clients, can lead to property damage, and can negatively affect productivity and morale. In addition, employers could be held liable if an employee uses work time and resources to engage in stalking. Stalking often indicates an increased risk of fatality for those who experience it.

  • According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 1 in 3 women (38.9 million) and 1 in 6 men (19 million) in the U.S. were survivors of stalking at some point in their lifetime.[xiii]
  • Of those who were stalked, 67% of survivors knew their perpetrators with 43.4% being current or former intimate partners and 40.6% acquaintances.[xiv]
  • In 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice found that 66% of cyberstalking victims most commonly received unwanted phone calls, voice messages, or text messages followed by 55% receiving unwanted emails or messages via the Internet. About 32% of victims said their activities were monitored using social media.[xv]
  • A 2019 Bureau of Justice Statistics survey found that 9.4% of stalking survivors knew their stalker as a professional acquaintance.[xvi]
  • According to a 2023 study, 1 in 8 survivors of stalking lost time from work due to safety concerns and/or to deal with the stalking.[xvii]
  • A 2021 review of multiple studies on stalking found that “victimization is common in professions that have an obligation or responsibility to their clientele.”[xviii]

[i] Leemis R.W., Friar N., Khatiwada S., Chen M.S., Kresnow M., Smith S.G., Caslin, S., & Basile, K.C. (2022). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2016/2017 Report on Intimate Partner Violence. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/nisvs/NISVSReportonIPV_2022.pdf.

Note – Intimate Partner Violence is another term used for domestic and dating violence.

[ii] Chen, J., Khatiwada, S., Chen, M. S., Smith, S. G., Leemis, R. W., Friar, N., Basile, K. C., and Kresnow, M. (2023). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) 2016/2017: Report on Victimization by Sexual Identity. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

[iii] National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Violence Prevention. (2010).  NISVS: An Overview of 2010 Findings on Victimization by Sexual Orientation. U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/cdc_nisvs_victimization_final-a.pdf.

[iv] Wathen, C. N., MacGregor, J. C. D., Tanaka, M., & MacQuarrie, B. J. (2018). The impact of intimate partner violence on the health and work of gender and sexual minorities in Canada. International Journal of Public Health, 63(8), 945–955. doi:10.1007/s00038-018-1127-1

[v] Blodgett, C., & Lanigan, J. (2018). The Prevalence and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence Intrusion in the Workplace. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 27(1), 15–34. doi:10.1080/10926771.2017.1330297

[vi] U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2010). Occupational Homicides by Selected Characteristics, 1997-2009. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/cfoi/work_hom.pdf

[vii] Basile, K.C., Smith, S.G., Kresnow, M., Khatiwada S., & Leemis, R.W. (2022). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2016/2017 Report on Sexual Violence. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

[viii] Smith, Sharon G., Xinjian Zhang, Kathleen C. Basile, Melissa T. Merrick, Jing Wang, Marcie-jo Kresnow, and Jieru Chen. (2018). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2015 Data Brief – Updated Release. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/2015databrief508.pdf.

[ix] Chen, J., Khatiwada, S., Chen, M. S., Smith, S. G., Leemis, R. W., Friar, N., Basile, K. C., and Kresnow, M. (2023). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) 2016/2017: Report on Victimization by Sexual Identity. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

[x] Feldblum, C.R. and Lipnic, V.A. (2016). Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Retrieved from https://www.eeoc.gov/select-task-force-study-harassment-workplace

[xi] U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, Office of Policy and Evaluation. (2017). Sexual Harassment Trends in the Federal Workplace. Retrieved from https://www.mspb.gov/studies/newsletters/Issues_of_Merit_Newsletter_Fall_2017_1442317.pdf

[xii] Hollywood Commission: Commission for Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace. (2020). The Hollywood Commission Culture and Climate Report 2019-20. Retrieved from https://static1.squarespace.com/static/6099a7247693533fc5285016/t/60a83e7965ffd53bbda5e890/1621638786391/The-Hollywood-Survey-Culture-and-Climate-Report-2019-20.pdf

[xiii] Smith, S.G., Basile, K.C., & Kresnow, M. (2022). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2016/2017 Report on Stalking — Updated Release. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/nisvs/nisvsStalkingReport.pdf

[xiv] Morgan, R. E., & Truman, J. L.. (Feb. 2022). Stalking Victimization, 2019. Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice.https://www.justice.gov/d9/2023-06/2022%20Report%20to%20Congress%20on%20Stalking.pdf

[xv] ibid

[xvi] ibid

[xvii] Logan, T., & Showalter, K. (2023). Work Harassment and Resource Loss Among (Ex)partner Stalking Victims. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 38(1-2), 1060-1087. doi: 10.1177/08862605221086649

[xviii] Jutasi, C., & McEwan, T. E. (2021). Stalking of professionals: A scoping review. Journal of Threat Assessment and Management, 8(3), 94–124. doi:10.1037/tam0000160