Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces

on Sunday, 20 May 2012. Posted in Eliminating Violence Against Women

The Australian Human Rights Commission (the Commission) conducted a national telephone survey between July and September 2008 to investigate the nature and extent of sexual harassment in Australian workplaces. Two thousand and five telephone interviews were conducted with people aged 18 to 64.[ 1] The sample of survey respondents was representative of the Australian population by age, gender and area of residence. The survey is based on a similar national telephone survey conducted by the Commission in 2003.

The aims of the survey were to find out:

  • the prevalence of sexual harassment in Australian workplaces

  • the types of sexual harassment experienced in Australian workplaces

  • the nature of sexual harassment, including characteristics of those who experience harassment, characteristics of harassers and characteristics of workplaces where harassment occurs

  • how sexual harassment is reported and the outcomes of complaints

  • trends in the nature and extent of sexual harassment in Australia between 2003 and 2008.

Key findings

Sexual harassment continues to be a problem in our workplaces, despite some improvement since 2003[ 2]

  • The 2008 survey found that 22% of women and 5% of men aged 18-64 have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace in their lifetime, compared to 28% of women and 7% of men in 2003.

  • Around one in three women in Australia aged 18-64 have experienced sexual harassment in their lifetime. The majority of sexual harassment continues to be experienced in the workplace (65%).

  • Nearly half of those who have been sexually harassed in the last five years report that it has also happened to someone else in the same workplace.

  • Over one in ten Australians have witnessed sexual harassment in the workplace in the last five years.

  • 4% of Australians have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace in the last five years, compared to 11% in 2003.

There is a lack of understanding about what sexual harassment is

  •  

    Around one in five (22%) respondents who said they had not experienced ‘sexual harassment’[ 3] then went on to report having experienced behaviours that may in fact amount to sexual harassment under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth). For example:

     

    • 5% reported behaviour(s) that included physical harassment such as unwelcome touching, hugging, cornering or kissing, inappropriate physical contact, or actual or attempted rape or assault.

    • 10% reported being subject to unwelcome sexually suggestive comments or jokes that made them feel offended.

    • 9% reported being subject to unwelcome intrusive questions about their private life or physical appearance that made them feel offended.

The large majority of sexual harassment goes unreported to employers and other bodies

  • The number of people who have formally reported or made a complaint after experiencing sexual harassment has significantly decreased over the last five years.[ 4]

  • Only 16% of those who have been sexually harassed in the last five years in the workplace formally reported or made a complaint, compared to 32% in 2003.

  •  

    For those who did not make a complaint:

     

    • 43% did not think it was serious enough

    • 15% were fearful of a negative impact on themselves

    • 21% had a lack of faith in the complaint process

    • 29% took care of the problem themselves.

Sexual harassment includes a range of behaviours, both physical and non-physical

  •  

    For survey respondents who experienced sexual harassment in the last five years:

     

    • the most common type of sexual harassment reported was unwelcome sexually suggestive comments or jokes that made the respondent feel offended (56%)

    • around one in three (31%) reported some kind of physical harassment, including unwelcome touching, hugging, cornering or kissing, inappropriate physical contact, or actual or attempted rape or assault

    • around one in five said they were subjected to sexually explicit emails or SMS messages

    • women were more likely to experience physical sexual harassment, compared to men. 35% of women reported some kind of physical harassment, compared to 25% of men.

Sexual harassment is a problem for all employers – small, medium and large

  • In the 2008 survey, there was an even spread of employer size among those who had experienced sexual harassment in the last five years – 39% worked for large employers, 30% medium employers and 31% small employers.[ 5] This is a similar finding to the 2003 survey.

Recommendations

The findings of the 2008 national telephone survey bring attention to six key areas for action to reduce the incidence and impact of sexual harassment. These are:

  1. Prevention and reporting of sexual harassment

  2. Increasing reporting of sexual harassment

  3. Better legal protection from sexual harassment

  4. Monitoring of sexual harassment

  5. Better support for victims of sexual harassment

  6. Further research on sexual harassment

The complete Report can be downloaded

Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health

The Australian Commonwealth Office for Women (OFW) commissioned Women’s Health Australia to undertake an analysis of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health data to explore the impact of violence on young women’s reproductive health.

The study found that violence against women is associated with serious reproductive outcomes including unwanted and unplanned pregnancies, high rates of abortion, low birth-weight and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV infection. Violence against women also impacts on their general physical and mental health.

Below is the link that is provided by OFW for an Adobe Acrobat (pdf) abridged summary of the study

The Australian Longitudinal Study of Women’s Health
Health and experiences of violence among young women

The Cost of Domestic Violence to the Australian Economy, Report published 2004

Senator the Hon Kay Patterson, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women released a report in 2004 entitled, The Cost of Domestic Violence to the Australian Economy by Access Economics Pty Ltd. This groundbreaking study, commissioned under the Australian Government’s Partnerships Against Domestic Violence initiative, has found that domestic violence cost Australia $8.1 billion in the year 2002-03. Nearly half of the cost is borne, as expected, by the victims of violence, but many other groups within the family and the community more broadly also bear the costs of this violence.

Domestic violence has been ranked in the top five risks to young women’s health in Australia. It is responsible for more ill-health and premature death in Australian women than other well-known risk factors to health such as high cholesterol, illicit drugs or unsafe sex.

Download the main report below: 

 

"The Cost of Domestic Violence to the Australian Economy" Report is in three sections, as follows:

 

 

http://www.accesseconomics.com.au/reports/Violencepart1.pdf and http://www.accesseconomics.com.au/reports/Violencepart2.pdf and

 

http://www.accesseconomics.com.au/reports/violencecorrigend.pdf

 

National Data on Violence against Women in Australia

 

A 1996 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) survey, Women's Safety Australia established the first national data on the nature and extent of all forms of violence against women in Australia. This research was funded by the Australian Government Office for the Status of Women and the Department of Health and Family Services. The survey looked at women's fear and experiences of violence in public and in the home. It covered physical and sexual violence and emotional abuse by strangers, previous and current partners and by other men and women such as relatives, friends, acquaintances and professionals. It explored the effects of violence on women's lives and their help-seeking behaviour (eg calling police or using community services). Arrangements are in place to conduct a comparable survey in 2005-06 with results expected mid 2006.

The main findings of the 1996 survey were:

  • During the 12 months prior to the survey, 490,400 women (7%) aged 18 and over experienced an incident of violence. Women were four times more likely to be assaulted by a man than by a woman.

  • 38% of women had experienced at least one incident of violence since the age of 15.

  • Younger women were found to be more at risk than older women. 19% of women aged 18-24 had experienced an incidence of violence in the previous 12 month period compared to 6.8% of women aged 35-44 and 1.2% of women aged over 55 years.

  • The main action taken after experiencing an assault was talking to other people, mainly family and friends. Only 19% of women who were physically assaulted and 15% of women who were sexually assaulted in the last 12 months reported the incident to the police. Even fewer women used crisis and other services after being assaulted.

  • The main reasons given for not contacting police or services were that women wished to deal with the incident themselves, or they did not regard it as serious. Their reasons for not contacting police were shame and embarrassment and fear of the perpetrator.

  • More women experienced physical violence from a current or previous partner than from a stranger or another man known to them. In contrast, more women experienced sexual violence from someone other than their partner.

  • 8% of partnered women reported an incidence of violence during their current relationship. 42% of women who had been in a previous relationship reported an incidence of violence by a previous partner.

  • Violence in the home affects children who also live in the home. Of the 8% of women experiencing violence in their current relationship, 61% reported they had children in their care, and nearly two thirds of these women reported that children had witnessed violence in the home.

  • Of more than 1 million women who experienced violence during the relationship with a previous male partner, 60% said they lived in fear during the relationship. 11% reported that they continued to live in fear.

The ABS report Women's Safety Australia 1996 was released in December 1996. Women's Safety Australia User Guide was released in February 1997. Both reports are available from ABS bookshops in each capital city (main report ABS Catalogue No.4128.0, User Guide ABS Catalogue No. 4129.0).

Source:

Sexual harassment: Serious business

 

Results of the 2008 Sexual Harassment National Telephone Survey