An estimated 9,000 women -- about 1 percent of the federal government's female work force -- have been raped or sexually assaulted on the job by coworkers or their bosses, according to the results of a confidential survey.
The survey of 20,000 U.S. workers made by the Merit Systems Protection Board for Congress also found that 15 percent of the men who answered the detailed questionnaire reported they had been subject to some form of sexual harassment within the last two years. There are no figures available to indicate whether the male experience was heterosexual or homosexual. But the women reported that the overwhelming majority of the unwanted sexual attention came from men.
MSPB sent out 23,000 questionnaires to most executive branch agencies last spring. More than 20,000 people responded, about half of them men and half women.
The survey was ordered by Rep. James M. Hanley (D-N.Y.) following congressional heraings last fall that indicated potential widespread sexual harrassment in government offices. Hanley's hearings were prompted by results of an unofficial survey made by an employe newsletter called Impact, published by Al Ripskis, an employe of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Forty-two percent of the women responding to the MSPB probe said they had experienced some form of on-the-job sexual pressure -- ranging from off color jokes and sexually-oriented remarks, to pinching, fondling or demands for sex from supervisors or co-workers.
In addition to sexual assaults and rapes reported by women responding, the survey showed that women who reported "incidents" on the job said they found that less serious actions, such as pressure for dates, displays of sexually oriented or obscene materials and the like were upsetting to the targeted individual.
The definition of sexual harassment for purposes of the study is deliberate or repeated unsolicited verbal comments, gestures or physical contact of a sexual nature which are unwelcome."
One respondent said that she came into the office one day and found a large centerfold nude from a magazine on her desk. Her face had been pasted into the picture. A group of male co-workers stood by and watched her reaction when she saw the picture. Others reported male colleagues, and bosses, especially those senior in age, constantly brought up the subject of sex.
The MSPB survey made public yesterday at hearings of Hanley's committee.
Rep. Gladys N. Spellman (D-Md.) indicated that some federal officials have not been paying enough attention to the problem of sexual harassment in their agencies, and to the disruptive and emotional impact it has on individuals and offices.
MSPB brass say that when the results are analyzed and completed later this year, they may have recommendations for government agencies that would include tougher penalities for on-the-job coercion and, perhaps, training programs.