Women Who Report Sexual Harassment at Work Often Get Treated Even Shittier As a Result

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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.

Sexual harassment rising as women who speak out are silenced [Herald Sun]

Image via Piotr Martin Novak /Shutterstock.


Violet Baudelaire

Part of the underlying problem (you know as opposed to the huge obvious problem) that not being able to speak up has is that it makes it such a vicious cycle - while there are people out there who are just assholes, I've run into many who just don't realize that their super funny/clever/awesome comment is legitimately offensive. If the harassed can't speak up - not at the time, not to an HR person or a superior - the cycle just continues. This goes beyond "I can do it because no one will call me out on it" and into "I'm acting like this because I legitimately don't realize the effect my words take".

And seriously - for everyone that's thinking of replying and telling me all about how many assholes there are out there who know exactly what they're doing, I know. But call me Pollyanna, because I do know people that I've talked to and called things out on that genuinely did not have any intention of being harassing or making the person they were talking to uncomfortable or feel violated. And it sucks that they're jerks unwittingly and we're violated because of it when it could be easily remedied if the harasser felt comfortable calling people out.