Sexual Harassment and Coercion in German Academia: A Large-Scale Survey Study


  • Merle Hoebel
  • Ana Durglishvili
  • Johanna Reinold
  • Daniel Leising


We surveyed a large sample (N = 6,217) of students and employees at a German university regarding their experiences as (potential) targets of sexual harassment and/or coercion (SH/C). Participants were asked specific questions depending on whether they had been targets of SH/C themselves, knew someone who had been affected or said they had no such experiences. Pre-registered analyses showed that women were assumed to become targets more often, and actually did become targets much more often (26.7%) than did males (4.7%; odds ratio: 7.45). Men more often had no first- or second-hand knowledge of any SH/C incidents (odds ratio: 1.75). Contrary to what participants assumed they would do if they became targets, only a very small percentage of such experiences were actually reported using the available channels. Most participants who experienced but did not report SH/C said they did not expect that doing so would lead to any consequences. Greater offence severity was associated with a stronger wish to avoid emotional distress by not reporting. Furthermore, reporting often times did not lead to any significant consequences in the majority of cases. Complaint systems against sexual harassment and coercion in academia may be largely dysfunctional. Practical implications are discussed.