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IACM 2023

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Sexual Misconduct Apologies Transfer Power From The Victimizer To The Victimized

Power, or an individual’s ability to exert their will and influence outcomes in others’ lives, is central to understanding and addressing sexual harassment in organizations. The present research examines third-party perceptions of a power imbalance between alleged perpetrators and accusing victims, theorizing that how the alleged perpetrator responds to the allegation can exacerbate or mitigate third-party perceptions of power asymmetry. In two studies, we find that apologies, compared to denials, issued by those accused of sexual harassment increase perceptions of the victim’s power relative to the harasser. Study 1 reveals that apologies can restore power to the victim, reducing third parties’ perceptions of power asymmetry between the victim and their alleged harasser. Study 2 further shows that the increase in the victim’s power relative to their alleged harasser mediates the relationship between the account given (i.e., apology, denial) and third-party willingness to advocate on behalf of the victim.

Rachael Goodwin
Syracuse University
United States

Samantha Dodson
University of British Columbia

Kristina Diekmann
University of Utah
United States


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