More than half British women sexually harassed at work but few report it - poll

by Zoe Tabary | zoetabary | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 25 October 2017 13:59 GMT

Workers walk through the More London business district with Tower Bridge seen behind in London, Britain, November 11, 2015. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

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"I don't think they would do anything about it and I don't want to be seen as causing too much of a fuss"

By Zoe Tabary

LONDON, Oct 25 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - More than half of British women have been sexually harassed at work or a place of study, according to a survey on Wednesday, but the majority did not report it with some women saying they remained unlikely to make a formal complaint.

The survey, conducted by ComRes for BBC Radio 5 live, found 37 percent of people had experienced sexual harassment, ranging from inappropriate comments to sexual assault at work or a place of study, including 53 percent of women and 20 percent of men.

Of those who had been harassed, the survey found one in 10 women had been sexually assaulted, while sexual harassment had driven one in 10 women to quit their job or place of study.

But the poll of more than 2,000 British adults found the majority of people said nothing, with 63 percent of women and 79 percent of men saying they hadn't reported the incident.

Some women questioned in London said they were unlikely to make a formal complaint despite the viral #MeToo campaign where thousands of women have taken to social media to recount experiences of being sexually harassed and abused.

"I've never reported (sexual harassment) to my company," said Zara, a business analyst at an investment bank in London's financial district of Canary Wharf, adding she was often the butt of sexual jokes being junior and one of only a few women in the team.

"I don't think they would do anything about it and I don't want to be seen as causing too much of a fuss," Zara, who didn't want to disclose her surname, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The social media #MeToo campaign was sparked by a public outcry over allegations that movie producer Harvey Weinstein sexually harassed or assaulted a number of women over three decades in the film business.

Weinstein has denied having non-consensual sex with anyone.

RELATED: Bollywood and Nollywood sexual predators shielded by victims' silence

"(Sexual harassment) happens all the bloody time," said Michelle, who works in consulting in Canary Wharf and declined to give her real name.

"Male colleagues will comment on how I look when saying how good I'll be at a specific task, like 'you look hot today, you'll ace this meeting'," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Frances O'Grady, head of Britain's umbrella union group, the Trade Union Congress (TUC), said that "too many victims are suffering in silence", with the effects of sexual harassment ranging from forcing women out of their jobs to damaging their mental health.

"There's so much more that employers can do, starting with having a zero tolerance policy and clear procedures in a visible place at work", she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

(Reporting by Zoe Tabary @zoetabary, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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