Women Say Sex Harassment Pervasive

This is the first of a week-long series on women in the workplace.

Laurie says she's a typical American working woman. She has children, grandchildren, a new apartment -- and she's been sexually harassed.

"The comments were pretty graphic," she told CBS News Correspondent Bill Whitaker.

From the factory to the office, reports of sexual harassment are up, but working women say the statistics don't begin to tell the story.

"The world would be amazed at how many people, how many women are sexually harassed," Laurie said.

CBS spoke with five women - a gardener, a receptionist, Laurie, an airline employee, also Laurie, a project manager, Rory, and a waitress, Tara. They asked that we just use first names.

"At first it was just comments like smut talking," Rory said.

All say the harassment started with talk.

"Talk, which got worse and worse," D.J. added.

And all say it's a fact of life for working women.

"You're supposed to almost put up with it. It's done all the time," said Tara.

"What do you say to the guys who say, 'Oh, come on, it's just talk… she's being too sensitive?" Whitaker asked.

"I'm not a sensitive person," Rory replied. "I mean, I was a bartender before I was in an office. It's not fun; it's not smut talk. It's scary."

These women aren't talking about crude guy talk or even sexually tinged office humor. What they mean is graphic, unwanted, sexual language directed at them.

"When somebody's telling you there are things they'd like to do to you, which way they'd like to do it, where ... that's crossing the line," Tara explained.

"He would make references to 'let's have sex in the hot tub' or, you know, 'let's pull over at the park and have sex in the car,'" added Rory.

Whitaker asked, "Why didn't you speak up?"

"Fear. Women fear retaliation," replied D.J.

"They know you need your job, and they use it to intimidate you," added Laurie.

"I reported it to a supervisor… and I ended up getting suspended," said Tara.

In fact, all five women were fired or suspended after finally complaining. So, now they're taking their complaints to court.

"Is it hard to prove sexual harassment?" Whitaker asked Tricia Knight.

"It's very hard," she answered.

Tricia Knight is one of a handful of attorneys to concentrate on the relatively new field of sexual harassment law.

"It is a 'he said, she said' type of situation. It's very, very hard for a woman to win a sexual harassment case," Knight said.

But these women say it would be harder to stay silent. Laurie spoke up when her daughter joined her office … and was sexually harassed by the same man.

"I wasn't going to do this, but I just thought to myself, you know what, this man has to be stopped," Laurie said. "And it won't stop until somebody makes him realize he's a pig."

Five typical American working women saying enough is enough.