Experts: Prominent women spur surge in sexual harassment allegations

Experts: Prominent women spur surge in sexual harassment allegations

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Hollywood, hospitality, Capitol Hill - recent allegations of sexual harassment reveal longstanding misconduct in virtually every industry.

From Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey to John Besh to leaders in D.C.

"It's a culture of harassment," said sociology professor and pollster Silas Lee

And experts agree it's a centuries-old issue.

"The reason why it's become so pervasive – man, they've gotten away with it. And the laws designed to shield women, they're not effectively protecting women from sexual harassment," said Lee. "Right now, the laws are almost like a paper tiger."

Lee says sexual harassment has become institutionalized, with minimal consequences for those who offend. Yet, experts say a new movement has emerged and this time, those in positions of power are taking part.

"We are seeing more women reporting sexual harassment who happened to be in positions of prominence," Lee said.

"I think, maybe, women have just sort of had it," said Loyola Women's Resource Center Director Patricia Boyett.

Boyett believes a fourth wave of feminism has started to gain momentum, but she says it'll take men to keep it moving.

"We're half of the country, but we're 5% of CEOs, we're 19% of the politicians. We don't have all the power, so we need all the allies we can get," Boyett said.

Not only allies, but they say a culture shift is necessary, as well as stronger laws with real punishment for misconduct.

"You have to get people to look at themselves and what they're doing. You have to believe people can change," explained Boyett.

"It's a complex issue that requires due diligence and it's one thing to have laws, you have to put some punitive punishment behind that," said Lee.

Boyette says this shift won't happen over night. It's going to take a long time for people's perceptions to change.

Copyright 2017 WVUE. All rights reserved.