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Risking Relationships: Understanding the Litigation Choices of Sexually Harassed Women

NCJ Number
Law & Society Review Volume: 33 Issue: 1 Dated: 1999 Pages: 67-92
Phoebe A. Morgan
Date Published
26 pages
This article examines how relationality can affect a sexually harassed woman’s decision to sue.
Resource mobilization and gender socialization theories go a long way toward explaining why so many sexually harassed women opt not to report their problems, but they shed little light on why some still choose to take action and sue. Analysis of 31 litigation narratives showed that, regardless of the severity of the harassment or the amount of legal aid available, maternal responsibilities, marital commitments and parental approval could become pivotal considerations. Some women considered the integrity of familial ties to be priceless assets worth suing for, while others deemed them too valuable to risk losing in a contest over rights. The narratives confirmed feminist assertions that relationships--especially familial ones--often play a central role in women’s choices. They also challenged popular assumptions about what constitutes a “personal choice” and under what circumstances women are likely to choose to litigate. Notes, references, appendix