Sexual Harassment In The Workplace: Then And Now

This fall marks the 20th anniversary of Anita Hill's testimony against Justice Clarence Thomas, which brought the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace to the forefront of the national dialogue.

Two decades later, alleged sexual misconduct is threatening another prominent man's political career and drawing fresh attention to the issue of sexual harassment. Of course, we're talking about GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain, who is vehemently denying claims of sexual harassment while he was the president of the National Restaurant Association during the 1990s.

In the business world of today, sexual harassment against women in the workplace is still a controversial topic. Some believe that it is a serious problem while others disagree and say the issue has been blown out of proportion.

Even Hill, now an attorney and law professor at Brandeis University, told BET that reactions to harassment claims have "evolved."

"Twenty years ago the conversation was entirely different, I mean we all know that. But it has evolved, in the past 20 years, to where we are today. And that's, you know, that's a good thing. In some ways it's just not simply the description of sort of he said/she said, just sort of throwing that out as a way to explain everything, no longer exists. I mean there is some deliberate inquiry and that's what I think should continue to happen."

Since Hill's testimony in 1991, businesses have tried to solve the problem of sexual harassment by providing seminars, workshops, trainings, and lengthy presentations. Yet even with all this, an AOL Jobs survey earlier this year revealed sexual harassment is still prevalent in workplaces.

According to AOL Jobs:

One in six persons has been sexually harassed in the workplace. Out of those harassed, 43 percent say it was from a manager and 51 percent say it was from a peer. Only 35 percent of people harassed reported it; women (47 percent) are more likely to do so than men (21 percent).

Myrna Blyth, the editor-in-chief of Third Age, compares sexual harassment "then and now" in her recent column. She says women used to have more common sense when it came to sexual harassment charges:

Was it better the way it used to be? No, of course not. There was tolerance of what was truly unacceptable behavior. But it is still far from perfect now. These days the assumption seems to be that women are so vulnerable and defenseless they always need a lawsuit and a payoff to protect them from even questionable behavior. Rather than--in most cases-- simply having the good sense to say, "Cut it out."

What do you think? How has your understanding of sexual harassment changed over the years?