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Why Does Sexual Harassment Happen? A Ball State Survey May Clue You In

A Ball State professor says sexual harassment has several health risk factors connected to it.

MUNCIE, Ind. -- A wave of sexual harassment allegations against celebrities and lawmakers have taken the nation by storm in the last couple weeks. But outside the obvious reasons, why does sexual harassment happen?

Professor Jagdish Khubchandani is a community health education professor at Ball State University, and says there are a variety of "health risk factors" that can lead to sexual harassment in any environment. According to a 2010 survey about 8-percent out of 17,500 respondents said they had been harassed or bullying at work in the last twelve months.

"We have to understand that when people are harassed it becomes a complex situation," Khubchandani said. "They're thinking about their job or their reputation and unfortunately, the people that harass create an intimidating situation and most of the time they are powerful people."

He adds this can cause victims of sexual harassment to keep quiet about what is going on for fear or repercussions. He says harassment is more likely to happen in stressful work environments. Which makes sense for allegations against lawmakers in Washington since working in government can be a stressful task.

"The humiliation and ridicule of workplace harassment causes victims to have low self-esteem, concentration difficulties, anger, lower life satisfaction, reduced productivity, increased absenteeism," Khubchandani continued.

Both the House and Senate have passed legislation cracking down on sexual harassment within both chambers in Congress, but Khubchandani says that Congress can pass all the laws it wants as long as it enforces them.

"The law does not prohibit simple teasing or isolated incidents. But what does 'simple teasing mean?'," he says. "We have a long list of rules and laws on this issue, but they are no good unless we enforce them."

(PHOTO: Bruce Brown/Getty Images)

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