This qualitative study explored coping strategies and perceived barriers to sexual harassment among women employees of Bahir Dar city hospitality workplaces, Northwest Ethiopia. To establish a productive coping strategy for WSH, understanding how women hospitality employees cope with sexual harassment is crucial. It is also vital to understand what barriers deter their coping strategies. Coping WSH and barrier elimination attempts require context-driven strategies that are articulated through an in-depth understanding of local views and indigenous response to WSH practices and respective barriers. Generally, the determinants of coping with SH and the barriers are all local, with specific characteristics that must be realized for appropriate standards to reduce the risk of SH . However, most interventions of SH prevention programs are guided by a broader global, regional, or national level framework , which lacks essential elements of sensitivity and compatibility to the local needs, priorities, and aspirations of the target community . Such a top-down approach often fails to recognize the vital role of communities and ignores the potential of local knowledge, resources, and capacities, and they may even saliently increase women employees' vulnerability to multidimensional impacts of sexual harassment [3, 12, 44].
Given that the determinants, characteristics of vulnerability factors, and barriers are variable based on occupation, gender, and cognition of the victims [23, 24], SH reduction interventions that drive from the contextually irrelevant strategies are fundamentally ineffective [17, 22, 23]. We argue here that the interventions targeted in reducing WSH and its impacts shall be supported by scheming and applying advanced strategies identified by a scientific, research-oriented, and evidence-based coping strategies. This study inductively constructed coping strategies and its barriers that can address the gaps in the science of WSH coping strategies, which often guided by a limited understanding of the nature of the perpetrators, the causes of sexual harassment, the challenges of coping, and socioeconomic characteristics of victims in a specific setting. Thus, the findings of this study and the new framework are useful to design and apply circumstantial and locally appropriate coping strategies to increase women employees' capacity to withstand the consequences of WSH.
The results of the current study consist of four dimensions (normalization, engagement, help-seeking, and detachment) of coping with WSH with perceived barriers in each dimension application. The strategy shows the relationship among these coping dimensions in the context of hospitality WSH. It accentuates understanding of what makes women employees unable to adapt to the specific dimensions of coping, which in turn makes the women employees less vulnerable to future risks and vulnerability and creates a specific opportunity for future interventions.
In this strategy, normalization (avoiding or minimizing conflict) has been identified as one of the most important coping strategies and constitutes elements of responses of SH and perceived barriers. At this stage, women employees come to see their experience as usual and compare their experience favorably with others. Consequently, they accept, keep silent, ignore, avoid, deny, tolerate, or sorrow while they face SH at their workplace. Employed women were challenged by the perception that some activities such as tolerance and silence are the indication of interest and facilitated by rewards such as promotion, useful recommendation, self-confidence, firm moral, religious beliefs, positive networks and, positive thinking and optimism. Evidence also supported that normalization was preferred due to the perception of hospitality employees' acceptance of SH is inevitable, seeing the components of normalization elements of coping responses as critical job-related skills, lack of preventative strategies by management, and an absence of sanctions for guests who harassed them . However, these components of the normalization strategy dimension were applied more for all types of perpetrators-more for the managers, supervisors, owners, and coworkers. In line with passive coping strategy , victims at this stage gently refused perpetrators' behavior. Normalization is the preferred dimension of coping by most victims. It contradicted the recommendation that suggests a firm and negative stance for the perpetrators .
Nevertheless, in settings such as hospitality workplaces, customers, or other perpetrators (coworkers and supervisors), confrontation is considered as wrong, and women may experience negative consequences of SH due to their firm responses . Also, sexual harassment, even severe SH, was ignored and normalized at this stage. In line with other studies [16, 17, 22, 48], the possible reason was power differentiation. The implication of this finding is the perceptions that the situation never happened, the complainant herself was complicit, or it could not have been that bad were as a result of normalization and is one dimension of coping. In this regard, the provision of tailored interventions such as psychosocial that buffer any negative mental health consequences of SH, women empowerment, and awareness creation training could build the employees' capacity for the choice of the appropriate coping strategies. In fact, given the existence of deep-rooted and general beliefs and norms of WSH, the challenges to intervene at this stage are tough. This challenge calls for active awareness creation movements about sexual harassment.
Engagement is among the essential coping strategy elements that appeared from the present data. Engagement consists of response components such as confronting, refusing, discriminating, threatening (blackmailing) or negotiating of the perpetrators. It is the least used dimension. The potential reasons for its least usage were the barriers and consequences of engaging in this dimension of coping strategy. The barriers were lack of knowledge on some legal backgrounds, lack of facilities to help in such stressful situations, and inaccessibility of surroundings.
On the other hand, the feared consequences of applying this dimension of coping were the distribution of wicked rumors, loss of a job, rape, physical harm, false accusation, income reduction/demotion, and verbal insults. Evidence also showed that women who confronted their harasser would be evaluated negatively by men and would be ascribed to more instrumental traits than women who did not confront the harasser, irrespective of the type of SH . Women who confronted perpetrators were also considered as lacking the femininity and perceived as impertinent [17, 49]. Evidence also supports that retaliation, threatening the perpetrator in this study, is one of the coping methods of sexual harassment . These findings imply that women's beliefs about the negative consequences and reactions deter many women from confronting the harasser and reporting the incident [17, 51]. Thus, ensuring legal mitigation mechanisms and awareness creation about the formal way of complaining sexual harassment victimization would minimize the risks encountered by the women. Moreover, ensuring context-specific solidarity techniques would increase women employees' confidence and workplace communication with supervisors .
In the emerged coping strategy, help-seeking was the third dimension and appeared as a cornerstone. It contains essential response elements such as informal social support-seeking, informal organizational support seeking, and formal organizational and legal support-seeking. However, those who practiced and interested to practice this dimension of coping strategy faced challenges such as the inappropriate perception of legal bodies, deep-rooted beliefs, and norms of the organization, insufficient managerial skill, lack of complaint procedure, lack of financial resources and lack of societal acceptance/support. Evidence supports that the factors that most differentiated help-seeking dimension users from others were judgment and extent of the condition (i.e., Help-seekers found it to be far more frustrating, offensive, disturbing, and so forth, and the situation had persisted for weeks to months). Consistent with a study conducted in Australia , despite the presence of explicit legal frameworks for preventing and responding to WSH, women employees preferred the extra-legal help-seeking practices in this study. As stated, the potential reasons for the preference of extra-legal help-seeking were bureaucracy-complex and time taking rules and regulations applied rigidly, the power difference between the victim and the perpetrator, corruption, fear of job loss, judicial reluctance and perception, and inadequate legal assistance and high cost. This finding implies that in addition to the low awareness about the legality of SH, the implementation procedure also deters women from formal legal help-seeking behavior. Thus, interventions that include awareness creation to legal bodies would help to increase the legal help-seekers. This finding was beyond the limit of this research, and future researchers would see the challenges and solutions of the legal response to sexual harassment.
The fourth and final dimension of coping strategy that emerged in this study was detachment. This dimension consists of job-hopping, job withdrawal, work withdrawal, and distancing from the perpetrators. However, those who practiced and planned to practice this dimension faced challenges such as being hunted by the perpetrators, Lack of employment opportunities, Engaging in Commercial sex work, and Lack of financial resources. This dimension of coping with WSH was less addressed. However, in this study, the detachment was mentioned as the most frequent coping dimension. Consistent with the study on coping strategies of workplace incivility , the detachment dimension practitioners in this study shared specific characteristics with the minimization dimension practitioners. However, unlike the mentioned study, the detachment dimension practitioners in this study did not consider the SH as mild, and the response was for the more powerful perpetrators. The finding of this dimension of coping implies that unemployment and other unemployment-related risks such as engaging in commercial sex work could increase. Thus, more organizations should avail counselors available and implement employee assistance programs targeted to employees, helping them contain the emotional and occupational sequelae of workplace victimization .
In summary, this study depicts that even silence is a coping strategy. It also explained that the participants could use more than one dimension and components at the same time or step-by-step. Furthermore, the barriers were significant for the shift from one dimension of coping to the other. Generally, this strategic framework could help in the development of context-specific WSH interventions. Nevertheless, future researchers should confirm the applicability of the framework using empirical studies.
However, this study has potential limitations. As the study participants were women who work in hospitality workplaces, the views of men and other workplace contexts were not included, and this might limit the adaptability of the new conceptual framework. The framework is developed based on the perceptions and perspectives of women employees, supervisors, cashiers, and customers of hospitality workplaces and readers bear this in their mind in interpreting the findings. Coping strategies should be shaped by the perspectives, realities, and priorities of the targets, which ensure receptivity and acceptability of the proposed strategic interventions. The strategic framework did not differently treat people with disabilities; instead, it suggests interventions at individual, organization, and community levels, which could benefit hospitality workplace women employees generally. Moreover, the study did not cover large geographical areas, which might limit the scope of application of the strategic framework.