A new Australian Human Rights Commission report found that women who complain about sexual harassment in the workplace suffer even more unjust treatment as a result. That's fucked up, because it's hard to imagine how things can ever get better if women stay silent. But if your job is on the line when you're deciding whether to speak up about an inappropriate comment or touch from a superior, would you really want to — and/or could you afford to — be a martyr?
The report found that more than one in five women experienced sexual harassment at work, but that only 20 percent of those made a formal complaint, a number that's declined in recent years. Yet, the number of staffers penalized for complaining — whether by general shit-talking or, in more extreme cases, actual demotions — jumped from 16 percent to 29 percent since 2003. Women working in health services, retail, and the restaurant industry were most likely to suffer.
It's not just women who are victims, either: the report found that men who had been harassed by other men had risen from 7 percent in 2003 to 23 percent.
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.
Thanks to the study, it's clear why no one actually wants to talk about what's going on. That's why alternate strategies, like the 22 former restaurant staffers who launched a social media campaign against their former (and allegedly crazy manipulative) Brooklyn-area chef, are inspirational — but it shouldn't be up to employees themselves to make sure they're treated fairly in the workplace.