Men un­der­es­ti­mate level of sex­ual ha­rass­ment against women – sur­vey

The Guardian Australia - - World News - Pamela Dun­can and Alexan­dra Top­ping

Men greatly un­der­es­ti­mate the level of sex­ual ha­rass­ment ex­pe­ri­enced by women, ac­cord­ing to a new sur­vey.

When asked what pro­por­tion of women had ex­pe­ri­enced any form of sex­ual ha­rass­ment, both male and fe­male re­spon­dents across the US and 12 Eu­ro­pean coun­tries, in­clud­ing Great Bri­tain, un­der­es­ti­mated the lev­els ex­pe­ri­enced by women.

The big­gest mis­con­cep­tions were held by Dan­ish, Dutch and French re­spon­dents, who un­der­es­ti­mated the ac­tual level of sex­ual ha­rass­ment in their coun­tries by 49, 35 and 34 per­cent­age points re­spec­tively.

The ques­tion was part of the poll­ster Ip­sos Mori’s Per­ils of Per­cep­tion sur­vey, which mea­sures the gap be­tween the pub­lic’s un­der­stand­ing of is­sues and re­al­ity.

The sur­vey was car­ried out af­ter the #MeToo cam­paign – first ig­nited by the Hol­ly­wood pro­ducer Har­vey We­in­stein’s al­leged sex­u­ally abu­sive be­hav­iour to­wards fe­male ac­tors – spread world­wide with women shar­ing their ex­pe­ri­ences on­line.

In Den­mark, where a 2012 sur­vey found 80% of women had ex­pe­ri­enced some form of sex­ual ha­rass­ment since the age of 15, the av­er­age an­swer among men was 31%.

In the Nether­lands – where a prom­i­nent con­duc­tor was re­cently fired due to al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual ha­rass­ment – 73% of women re­ported be­ing af­fected yet the av­er­age an­swer among men was 38%.

French men put the fig­ure at 41% whereas the 2012 sur­vey found that 75% of French women had been ha­rassed. The sur­vey was car­ried out just months af­ter footage of Marie La­guerre be­ing struck on a Paris street for re­spond­ing to sex­ual ha­rass­ment went vi­ral.

France pre­vi­ously in­tro­duced leg­is­la­tion which in­clude fines in an ef­fort to com­bat sex­ual vi­o­lence in the coun­try.

In the US, where a 2018 poll found that 81% of women had ex­pe­ri­enced sex­ual ha­rass­ment at some point in their lives, Amer­i­can men’s av­er­age an­swer was 44%.

The sur­vey was car­ried out in the weeks af­ter Chris­tine Blasey Ford’s tes­ti­mony against the then supreme court nom­i­nee Brett Ka­vanaugh, ac­cus­ing him of sex­u­ally as­sault­ing her when the two were in high school, di­vid­ing opin­ion in the US.

Laura Bates, who set up the Ev­ery­day Sex­ism Project, which chron­i­cles women’s daily ex­pe­ri­ences of gen­der in­equal­ity, said the lack of will­ing­ness among men to recog­nise the ex­tent of sex­ual ha­rass­ment was hold­ing back ef­forts to tackle it.

She said: “That this sur­vey comes a year af­ter #MeToo, sug­gests that we have a real prob­lem be­liev­ing women and tak­ing them se­ri­ously.

“That so many women have been brave enough to tell sto­ries with dev­as­tat­ing per­sonal con­se­quences to hear that they are still not be­ing be­lieved is very dif­fi­cult to cope with.

“We need a crit­i­cal mass of men to stand up and get in­volved to tackle this prob­lem and be­come part of the so­lu­tion.”

In Great Bri­tain, where 68% of women re­ported hav­ing ex­pe­ri­enced sex­ual ha­rass­ment, the av­er­age guess was 50% fall­ing to 46% among male re­spon­dents.

In the UK, unions have re­peat­edly said that low-paid work­ers were sub­jected to ha­rass­ment and abuse so reg­u­larly that it had be­come en­tirely nor­malised. The sit­u­a­tion for low-paid work­ers was high­lighted in Jan­uary when un­der­cover jour­nal­ists from the Fi­nan­cial Times re­vealed that fe­male work­ers were al­legedly groped, sex­u­ally ha­rassed and propo­si­tioned by at­ten­dees of a Pres­i­dents Club char­ity din­ner held at the Dorch­ester ho­tel.

A re­cent sur­vey by the Unite union of hos­pi­tal­ity work­ers in the UK found that 89% had suf­fered sex­ual ha­rass­ment – of those 60% didn’t think a com­plaint would be taken se­ri­ously by their work­place.

A TUC sur­vey car­ried out in 2016 found that half of women had been ha­rassed at work, but four out of five had not re­ported it.

“I wish I could say I am sur­prised by these fig­ures, but I’m not,” said the TUC’s head of equal­ity, Al­ice Hood. “It is shock­ing but not sur­pris­ing that pub­lic aware­ness is still so low. Although we have seen a lot more fo­cus on the is­sue in the last 12 months, we have a long cul­tural his­tory of not ac­knowl­edg­ing sex­ual ha­rass­ment so we need more trans­parency to push for mean­ing­ful ac­tion.”

MPs have been con­duct­ing a for­mal in­quiry to con­sider tougher laws af­ter a sex­ual ha­rass­ment scan­dal en­veloped West­min­ster and other in­dus­tries in­clud­ing the le­gal pro­fes­sion, tech in­dus­try and re­tail sec­tor.

Method­ol­ogy

The Ip­sos Mori Per­ils of Per­cep­tion Sur­vey 2018 was con­ducted be­tween 28 Septem­ber and 16 Oc­to­ber 2018 in 37 coun­tries and ter­ri­to­ries with a to­tal sur­vey sam­ple of 28,115 in­ter­views.

The ques­tion on sex­ual ha­rass­ment was asked in a sub­set of coun­tries with sam­ple sizes rang­ing from 500 to 1,000 peo­ple and com­pared with a 2012 sur­vey by the Eu­ro­pean Union Agency for Fun­da­men­tal Rights which recorded the pro­por­tion of women who re­ported any form of sex­ual ha­rass­ment since the age of 15.

The EU sur­vey’s def­i­ni­tion in­cluded un­wel­come touch­ing, sex­u­ally sug­ges­tive com­ments or jokes, star­ing or leer­ing, be­ing sent sex­u­ally ex­plicit pic­tures or mes­sages and in­de­cent ex­po­sure among other forms of ha­rass­ment.

The US re­sults were com­pared with a 2018 sur­vey car­ried out by the non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion Stop Street Ha­rass­ment, which pro­vided re­spon­dents with broadly com­pa­ra­ble def­i­ni­tions to the Eu­ro­pean sur­vey.

Pho­to­graph: NurPhoto/Getty Im­ages

Both sexes un­der­es­ti­mate sex­ual ha­rass­ment, but this ten­dency is more pro­nounced among men, a sur­vey by Ip­sos Mori finds.

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