Worried about sexual harassment – or false allegations? Our team asked Americans about their experiences and beliefs

Since the launch of #MeToo, there’s been a lot of attention on problems of sexual harassment and assault in the U.S.

Unfortunately, this has not amounted to much progress in terms of reductions in sexual harassment and assault or improvements in conviction rates. This is in part due to the social and political dissension regarding the veracity of accusations and what constitutes fairness of due process when cases arise.

Our new study, published April 30 by nonprofit Stop Street Harassment, in partnership with our team at UC San Diego’s Center on Gender Equity and Health, as well as others, looks closely at the scope of these issues in our country.

The headline figure is that, as has long been known, sexual harassment affects most women and many men.

However, our study dug deeper, providing insight into three questions that are central to today’s media coverage of #MeToo.

1. Have the rates of sexual harassment and assault changed with the #MeToo movement?

In the nationally representative sample of the approximately 2,000 Americans whom we surveyed in early 2019, 81% of women and 43% of men said that they had experienced sexual harassment or assault at least once in their lives.

Eighteen percent of women and 16% of men reported recent sexual harassment or assault in the last six months, which is not a significant change from 2018.

The overall prevalence of sexual harassment or assault throughout one’s lifetime also showed no change.

These findings suggest that improved awareness of #MeToo and potential backlash against it have not altered the incidence or reported prevalence of these abuses.

However, while these data indicate no change in survey reports, U.S. crime data indicate that more people are reporting sexual harassment and assault to the police, possibly due to greater comfort engaging the criminal justice system thanks to #MeToo.

Nonetheless, high rates of sexual harassment and assault, particularly for women, continue to be a norm in the U.S.

2. How safe from sexual harassment are students and workers?

Our study suggests that most sexual harassment occurs on the street or in other public venue.

However, 38% of women and about 15% of men have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace and at school.