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By Emily Angelastro

Grace Dowd works at a family-owned grocery store as a cashier. The 20-year-old minds her own business, tries to get through the day, and does her job as best as she can, particularly during the pandemic. One shift, she was taken off guard when a male customer told her to "smile," especially considering the fact that she was wearing a mask. Something else Grace didn't enjoy: when that same man dropped his wallet, caught it in between his legs at the counter, and asked her if she liked that he "caught it with his junk." He then proceeded to call her an ugly little girl after she didn’t play along with his banter.

When heading into a part-time job, most people aren’t looking for problems or issues. They just need to make money. While at work, employees have to follow some kind of guidelines that force them to be nice to their customers, regardless of how they are treated. We’ve heard the phrases "the customer is always right" and "be professional" more times than we can recall, so it’s ingrained in our brains and even allows patterns of sexual harassment to form and then be brushed off. Unwanted sexual comments and harassment also occur between co-workers.

I spoke to nine different people, six women in their early 20s, one man in his 20s, a 56-year-old woman, and one 27-year-old woman who works as an Applied Behavior Analyst Therapist. I asked about their experiences and opinions on a big question: If sexual harassment in the workplace is not a secret, then why do victims of sexual harassment and their co-workers treat it like a secret?

In light of the #MeToo movement that rose in 2017, people were led to believe that there would be changes made in institutions; that the workplace would become a safer place for employees, especially young women. One woman I interviewed, a manager at another local grocery store, requested anonymity, and told me that the regulations have gotten less strict at her job. She said, "there was a change in management, so they’re more concerned with losing the workers they have than actually dealing with the situation."

A 2017 poll from ABC News and The Washington Post found that 54 percent of American women receive "unwanted and inappropriate" sexual advances. Ninety-five percent of those who participated in the polls say that the perpetrators of the behavior and advances faced no consequences or went unpunished.

Media coverage of the movement was one of the most impactful factors in making it such a whirlwind in society. When Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey published their story in the New York Times exposing Harvey Weinstein, the world and Hollywood were rocked with numerous women coming forward accusing Weinstein of sexual harassment and misconduct.

Andrea McLaughlin, a 56-year old Senior Project manager for a global market research company, told me, "I did, however (experience sexual harassment) in my previous job, and it was many years ago. There was a male co-worker who would call my office and home phone, disguise his voice and say profound things. This went on for a few weeks. I knew who it was and went to the office manager. They really didn’t do anything but make me sign a paper. I don’t recall what it said, but it was basically just to cover their a**. They did nothing to the guy. I’m not even sure if they spoke to him about it. It eventually stopped. This was 30-something years ago, and something like that or sexual harassment was not a big deal. I’ve had bosses call me "sweetie" and never thought anything of it. Nowadays, they would get in trouble for that."

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