The annual number of sexual harassment complaints filed with the EEOC reached a peak at 15,889 in 1997. Claims dropped off in the 2000s, falling to 11,717 in 2010 (Haq, 2011). The drop in the number of annual claims may reflect improved efforts of American companies to provide effective workplace training on sexual harassment, or it may be a product of the economic down­turn—harassed employees may be keeping quiet out of fear of jeopardizing their employment or career advancement (Haq, 2011; Stout, 2011). It is also possible that an increasing incidence of confidential settlements has resulted in fewer claims filed with the EEOC. For example, the National Restaurant Association, which Cain headed in the 1990s, entered into confidential and secret settlements with two women who had accused Cain of inappropriate and unwanted sexual advances (Haq, 2011).

For whatever reason, we can be assured that many incidents of workplace sexual harassment go unreported. Some have estimated that only 5-15% of harassed people actually file complaints (Haq, 2011). An analysis of data derived from national surveys indicates that 40-70% of American women and 10-20% of men have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 2009; Rospenda et al., 2009).

Sexual harassment is not limited to low-paying jobs or indeed to any particular segment of the employment force. It occurs in all professions and at every level. For example, over a decade ago the army’s highest-ranking woman (a general) filed a com­plaint of sexual harassment that was substantiated by army investigators (Myers, 2000; Ricks & Suro, 2000). The level of sexual harassment in the U. S. military is quite high (Buchanan et al., 2008). Several studies have revealed high incidences of sexual harass­ment in medical settings as well. In one survey of 133 physicians, 73% of the female respondents and 22% of the men reported experiencing sexual harassment during their residency training (Komaromy et al., 1993). Other studies have revealed that 69-85% of nurses experience sexual harassment on the job (Valente & Bullough, 2004).

Sexual harassment involving members of the same sex has become more of an issue, both in the workplace and in the U. S. courts. People who are victims of same-sex sexual harassment have generally found it difficult to obtain satisfactory legal judg­ments, regardless of their own sexual orientation. Until recently, this unfortunate situation was due in large part to the absence of a federal law specifically prohibiting same-sex sexual harassment and to many courts’ narrow interpretation of Title VII as prohibiting sex discrimination only between men and women (Bible, 2006). The lack of a legal sanction against same-sex sexual harassment was finally addressed in late 2007, when the U. S. Congress passed a bill making it illegal for employers to engage in discrimination or harassment related to sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Nevertheless, even with the passage of this landmark legislation, attorneys representing victims of same-sex harassment frequently find themselves needing to prove that the accused acted out of "sexual interest." Proving this can be extremely dif­ficult, because most defendants in these cases claim to be heterosexual. Furthermore, gay or lesbian plaintiffs may fear being "outed" or exposed, and plaintiffs who are not gay or lesbian may fear being thought of as such (Gover, 1996). Nevertheless, same-sex sexual harassment claims are increasing (Stout, 2011).