Women who complain of sexual harassment get labeled troublemakers

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In an ideal world, victims would be helped and perpetrators would be punished – unfortunately it seems the business world is a long way from that basic ideal.

A new Australian Human Rights Commission report shows women who complain about sexual harassment often suffer more unjust treatment in the workplace.

The report found that more than one in five women experienced sexual harassment at work, but that only 20% of those affected made a formal complaint. Almost a third of those who did complain (29%) said they were penalized for complaining, almost twice as many as the 16% who reported negative consequences in 2003. From being ostracized and talked about by coworkers, to being demoted for speaking up – the message for these women was that they should have stayed quiet.

The most common types of sexual harassment include sexually suggestive comments or jokes, inappropriate leering or staring, intrusive questions about physical appearance and sexually explicit emails or text messages. People who reported receiving sexually explicit emails or text messages dropped from 22 per cent to 17 per cent between 2008 and 2012.

The report also showed the number of men who have been harassed by other men has risen from 7 per cent in 2003 to 23 per cent today.

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick told the Herald Sun that progress in actually combating sexual harassment "has stalled" in Australia. "Compounding this concern are the findings that a number of people are bystanders to incidents of sexual harassment in the workplace and understanding about sexual harassment remains limited, with only marginal improvements in understanding since the 2008 survey," she said.

Forum question: Is Canada doing any better?
 

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