Two-thirds of women sexually harassed at work, says study; people share shocking personal experiences

HarassedAtWork reminds us why we should take workplace sexual harassment seriouslyImage for representation; By Leon israel via Wikimedia Commons
Features Sexual harassment Thursday, August 11, 2016 - 16:52

“Working alone in a sound studio, the sound engineer *joked* about how nobody would hear me if I screamed #HarassedAtWork”

“Boss told me to open my blouse a bit more, so customers would have 'a nicer view'. I was 15 at that time. #HarassedAtWork”

“#HarassedAtWork When I worked at a betting shop, got told by managers that old men touching me up was part of the job”

Women from across the world are using the hashtag “Harassed At Work” to raise their voices about personal experiences of sexual harassment at the workplace.

This comes after a recent survey revealed that "nearly two in three young women have experienced sexual harassment at work". 

The research conducted by The Trades Union Congress (TUC) in collaboration with the Everyday Sexism Project found that almost two-thirds of women in Great Britain between the ages of 18-24 have been sexually harassed at work.

And in nine out of 10 cases, the perpetrator of the harassment was a man. 

For the research titled Still just a bit of banter?,  1,533 women were surveyed on experiences of workplace sexual harassment. 

While sexual harassment at the workplace is widespread, it often ends up being dismissed as a “joke” or “just a bit of banter”. Several women who took part in the online survey said that their experiences of sexual harassment were often “minimized or invalidated” by colleagues or others.

Victims of sexual harassment said that such experiences not only left them feeling embarrassed and humiliated, but also impacted their health and performance at work.

Some of the behaviours that the study counted as sexual harassment include indecent or suggestive remarks, jokes about a colleague’s sex life and unwelcome physical contact.

The findings

35% of women said they have heard comments of a sexual nature about other women. 32% of women said that they had been subjected to unwelcome jokes of a sexual nature. 28% of women said that they had received comments of a sexual nature about their body or clothes at work.

Nearly one quarter of respondents also said that they had experienced unwanted touching, while one fifth had experienced unwanted sexual advances. One percent said they had experienced serious sexual assault or rape at work.  

The study states that more than one in ten women reported having experienced unwanted attempts to kiss them or unwanted touching of their breasts, buttocks or genitals in the workplace.

A majority of the respondents said that they had faced harassment on work premises.

Younger people in the work force are more likely to be subjected to violence or other kinds of harassment. 

It was also found that perpetrators often hold a position of power and authority over the victim, and the harasser in most cases was a colleague, followed by a third party like a customer or a client. 

The survey found that, "Perceptions of what is normal and acceptable may influence decisions about reporting harassment." This, unfortunately, often leads to most women not challenging the harassment they face.

As one respondent put it, “I don't report these behaviours because they are (apart from rape and serious assault) normal. This kind of stuff happens all the time, in every part of life.”

While some fear negative consequences for raising a complaint – such as losing their jobs – many also fear getting victimized.  "Shame, humiliation, and a sense of being undermined professionally were all cited by respondents,” the study states.

While women are most likely to be victims of sexual harassment this however does not mean that men cannot experience such harassment. The study also states that "the fact that men are less likely to experience sexual harassment may exacerbate feelings of shame or embarrassment when it does happen."

In a 2013 article for The Guardian, Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, wrote how victims of sexual harassment at the workplace are often questioned as to why they did not report or didn’t take a stand against the perpetrator.

She explained that “this attitude completely fails to take into account the power dynamics of many workplace harassment scenarios; the vulnerability of many victims and the fear of losing one's job, particularly at a time when employment is scarce and public attitudes towards victims are unsympathetic.”

Stating that the issue needs to be taken seriously, she wrote that the blame should be placed solely with the perpetrator.

The “Harassed At Work” hashtag is a strong reminder of why that is necessary.  

Have you been sexually harassed at your workplace? Write to email@thenewsminute.com to share your experience.

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