Widespread sexual harassment in Australian workplaces, says report

Analysis

Widespread sexual harassment in Australian workplaces, says report

Sexual harassment in Australian workplaces has increased, is widespread, and is pervasive, according to a new report from the Australian Human Rights Commission.

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Sexual harassment in Australian workplaces has increased, is widespread, and is pervasive, according to a new report from the Australian Human Rights Commission. 

Victims


According to the report, 72% of Australians have been sexually harassed at some point in their lives and this breaks down by gender to 85% of Australian women and 57% of Australian men. 
In the last 12 months, 23% of women and 16% of men experienced sexual harassment at work and in the last five years, 39% of women and 26% of men experienced sexual harassment at work. 
People aged 18-29 (45% of respondents) were more likely than those in other age groups to have experienced sexual harassment at work. Meanwhile, 20% of workers aged 15-17 have also been sexually harassed at work.

Workplace sexual harassment appears to be particularly prevalent in the information, media and telecommunications industry as 81% of respondents reported being sexually harassed. Meanwhile, 42% of people in retail and 40% of people in mining also reported being sexually harassed at work.
Professional workers were the most likely group to be sexually harassed as they accounted for 24% of respondents. Clerical and office workers were the group next most likely to be harassed with 16% of respondents reporting they had been sexually harassed. 

Perpetrators


Just over two-thirds of harassment incidents (64%) were carried out by a single perpetrator. Men were much more likely to be perpetrators than women. 93% of all female victims were harassed by men and 8% were harassed by women. 58% of men were sexually harassed by men and 47% were sexually harassed by women. 
Perpetrators aged 41-50 accounted for the largest number of perpetrators (27%), followed by perpetrators aged 31-40 years and perpetrators aged 51-64 years. Younger perpetrators were more likely to target a man than a woman; conversely, older perpetrators were more likely to target a woman than a man. 
Overwhelmingly, perpetrators were at the same employment level as the victim in 27% of the responses. Clients / customers were also heavily represented as perpetrators in 21% of incidents. Workers at more senior levels were much less well represented. 

Types of harassment


Respondents were asked about a list of behaviours likely to constitute sexual harassment and they were asked if they had ever experienced these behaviours. A wide ranging-list of behaviours was provided to respondents. These included, but were not limited to, actual or attempted rape or sexual assault;  requests or pressure for sexual acts; unwelcome touching, hugging, cornering or kissing;  sexually explicit comments made in emails, SMS messages or on social media; and sexually suggestive comments or jokes that made the person feel offended. 
The single greatest type of harassment reported by respondents were exposure to sexually suggestive comments or jokes, which account for 19% of incidents experienced in the workplace. 
The next-most experienced form of harassment was intrusive questions about a person’s private life or appearance (14% of the total), followed by inappropriate staring or leering (11%). 

Adverse consequences


About 40% of workplace sexual harassment incidents were witnessed by at least one other person and, in the majority of cases, 69% of the witnesses did not intervene. 
Fewer than one-in-five people (17%) made a formal report or complaint about workplace sexual harassment and, of those, about 19% were labelled as a troublemaker and a further 18% were ostracised or victimised by colleagues. A further 17% resigned. 

Methodology


The 2018 National Survey was conducted both online and by telephone with a sample of over 10,000 Australians. The survey measured people’s experiences of sexual harassment over the course of their lifetimes. Anyone who had been in the workforce at any time in the last five years was also asked about their experience of sexual harassment in their workplace at any time in the last five years and within the last 12 months.

Further reading


Everyone’s business: Fourth national survey on sexual harassment in Australian workplaces by The Australian Human Rights Commission.
 
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