Why women may fear speaking out about workplace sexual harassment

ABC News' Rebecca Jarvis and Dan Abrams and Marisa Guthrie of The Hollywood Reporter discuss how women may fear retaliation for speaking up and what could happen next in the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
7:48 | 10/11/17

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Transcript for Why women may fear speaking out about workplace sexual harassment
story in the wake of those bombshell allegations against Harvey Weinstein focus is turning to what women face in the workplace, a staggering 60% say they have experienced sexual harassment on the job and ABC's Rebecca Jarvis is here with more on this very important story. Rebecca. That's right, good morning to all of you and this issue might be getting more attention than ever before, but we know that it's been going on underneath the surface in every industry for years. It's a story as old as Hollywood itself. Tales of sexual favors and sexual harassment for a chance at stardom. Kept under wraps, an open secret until now. In the past week women coming forth with their stories of harassment and abuse by super producer Harvey Weinstein. Stars like Angelina Jolie, Ashley Judd and Gwyneth paltrow now sharing their stories, paltrow telling "The New York Times" the alleged harassment was during her breakout role in "Emma." Incomprehensible thing in the world is a woman who rejects his offer of marriage. Reporter: She was just 22 years old. She said she refused his unwanted advances and kept mum. I thought he was going to fire me. When you're just starting out, you know there are hundreds if not thousands of people would want your job. Coming forward about sexual harassment and assault is not an easy thing to do especially if your entire career is on the line. Reporter: But sexual harassment is not just a Hollywood problem. We spoke to working women from all kinds of industries late last year. How many of you have been sexually harassed over the course of your career? Leave your hand up if it's more than twice. More than three times. More than four times. How many of you have been referred to, show of hands, as a girl, a doll, a babe or honey at work? Sweetheart belongs on that list as well. How many have heard you're too emotional? You're being too emotional. Now don't get so emotional. That's the new word for sexism and put you down but if you say anything, you're emotional because you're a woman. Reporter: And then this shocking drop in hands. How many of you filed an hr request against your harasser? But isn't hr supposed to be the safe place to report harassment? Typically the women are younger, they may be a status that's dependent upon their job and the perpetrators know this and, in fact, prey on them and count on their silence. I sort of silenced myself. I felt in that moment I felt like there's an erasure of yourself. I have to think about my values and what's important to me and weigh them against my career. It's still hard for women and men who have been victims of sexual harassment to talk about it which really speaks to how much we still stigmatize victims and the goal is to empower women to speak up which means that the perpetrators need very severe consequences. All right, let's bring in Hollywood reporters TV editor Marisa Guthrie and Dan Abrams along with Rebecca. Marisa, we have long heard about the casting couch in Hollywood. Could this story be the tipping point to ending it. I hope so. I think everybody hopes so. I mean, this is so extreme. These allegations are so extreme and they've been circulating for decades in Hollywood. So I think this is a wake-up call and there are other shoes to drop here. Rebecca, we just heard Marisa say these allegations have been swirling for decades. Talk a little about the lack of reporting in cases like this. Women just don't feel confident coming forward. We know from the eeoc which is the major body that looks into these issues that 94% of the time as much as 94% of the time, they don't get talked about. They don't file complaints. And part of the issue is the imbalance of power and the fear that many women face and men who are in this situation in that imbalance of power, we've heard of eeoc research that 75% of the time those who do complain face retaliation. And, Dan, we heard Gloria Allred speaking earlier about a possible class action civil arbitration. What do you make of that strategy. First of all listening to those women earlier this morning, it's just so gross is the bottom line. Listening to those accounts of what they say happened to them. Look, what Gloria Allred is effectively asking for is for Harvey Weinstein to waive the statute of limitations and agree to enter into arbitration. It's not going to happen. I'm not criticizing dmror ra Allred for offering it as an option. It's just not going to happen. The statute of limitations is a real problem in cases like this, why? Because as we're talking, women are afraid to come forward. They don't want to come forward. They don't know what the impact will be on their careers, their lives, et cetera, which is why you see more and more states trying to change the statute of limitations but here you have a real statute of limitations problem both in terms of civil and criminal. This one possible criminal case that we know of now that could be brought based on an interesting statute of limitations argument. Marisa, as we hear women come forward we're now starting to hear from some men who are speaking out and speaking up against Harvey Weinstein. What role do men play in this? They have to -- it can't be, you know, the girls, you know, the sisterhood against the old boys club. It has to be everybody speaking out about this and raising their hand and saying, I saw this and we can't tolerate this and that's part of the reason that these allegations about Harvey could -- he could keep doing this for so long because everybody kept quiet about it. And people who knew about it kept quiet about it and I think we're going to hear from more people coming forward or being outed as, you know, having -- it's who knew what when with this. Speelging to that, Rebecca, talk about the impact this may have on any other potential victims seeing some of the pose powerful women in Hollywood stepping forward and saying it happened to me. I think there is strength in number and the outcome here is really going to ultimately dictate how other whimper receive this. If Harvey Weinstein, for example, goes back to his career and if there are not ultimately issues and the women who are coming out face issues in retaliation in their careers, they're going to be women who are fearful to do the same. But if the opposite happens, if justice is served, if the women who have come forward go on to flourish in their careers and this isn't an issue or taken on their reputation then you're going to see more women feel comfortable and I do think there is strength in numbers here. You're going to see more women come forward against Harvey Weinstein. I think everyone has said that. Dan, I want to ask, you mentioned there is right now potentially one criminal case in this. We were talking earlier about what makes some of these cases just, you know, he's a bad guy, he is a predator versus he's doing something criminally wrong. The bottom line the difference between sexual harassment and assault, sexual harassment is workplace, a variety of types of them that can occur in the workplace, the bathrobe incident, walking in saying, you know, walking out suddenly naked, et cetera, a sexual assault is contact. Is basically taking someone, forcing someone to do something, touching someone in a way. Even a touch by the way can be a sexual assault. Don't forget that. That if you are touched inappropriately, workplace, not workplace, that's a sexual assault. That can be something you can and should report. So it's really important to think about these things because it is just such a scary when we look back at everything that happened here. For so long. Oh. Incredible pattern of bad behavior according to all of these women, Dan, Marisa, Rebecca, thank you very much. Very important conversation. We appreciate it.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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