Attitudes about sexual harassment: Does the culture of sexual harassment differ in rural areas?

Numerous highly publicized examples of sexual harassment have been documented in the media. These cases have sparked a highly charged and frequently divisive conversation about the topic of sexual harassment and victimization (e.g., Pew Research Center, 2018). Although there are a myriad of factors linked to attitudes about sexual harassment, it is the broader social context that is critical in shaping both attitudes and responses (e.g., Zimbroff, 2007). Efforts to eliminate sexual harassment need to focus on understanding the dynamics that contribute to dysfunctional attitudes of ambivalence, acceptance, and blaming the victim, but research has yet to identify a program that consistently yields positive change (Smith, 2018). Statistics on the incidence of sexual harassment are staggering according to Chatterjee (2018), who reports that approximately 81% of females and 43% of males identify as victims. However, Chatterjee (2018) notes the lack of systematic research on the incidence of sexual harassment. Research findings on the impact of sexual harassment in rural areas offers even less clarity (Lewis & Reed, 2003). These statistics, coupled with evidence of the negative psychological and physical outcomes associated with sexual harassment (Smith, 2018), underscore the importance of systematically investigating factors that contribute to attitudes about sexual harassment. The current study examines: gender, cohort, and demographic factors as these relate to attitudes about sexual harassment and gender role orientation. In order to explore the influence of cultural factors, college students in Appalachia and their peers outside the region were included in the sample.