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Despite #MeToo, one in four UK women hesitate to report work harassment

by Sonia Elks | @SoniaElks | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 14 October 2019 23:01 GMT

ARCHIVE PHOTO: Commuters walk over an art installation on London Bridge, Britain June 22, 2015. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

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Women still fear they will pay their price for harassment instead of their abusers

By Sonia Elks

LONDON, Oct 15 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A quarter of young women in England and Wales would be reluctant to report workplace sexual harassment due to fears they might be fired as a result, according to a survey on Tuesday.

Two years after the #MeToo movement against sexual abuse and misconduct swept social media worldwide, women still fear they will pay their price for harassment instead of their abusers, said the Young Women's Trust which commissioned the research.

"No woman should feel unsafe at work or put up with sexual harassment as something that's part of the day job," the charity's Chief Executive Sophie Walker said in a statement.

"We're marking the #MeToo anniversary with yet another call for action. When will the men who make political decisions, run workplaces and lead businesses decide that respect and equality for women is important?"

The Young Women's Trust called on the government to take action by placing a legal duty on employers to proactively prevent sexual harassment in the workplace and making them liable if they fail to act on reports of such incidents.

Revelations of sexual abuse within Hollywood in October 2017 led to the global #MeToo movement on social media as women shared their stories of sexual abuse and discrimination, sparking a wider debate over pay, representation and sexism.

But despite some high-profile firings of abusers, many women fear their workplaces are not willing to tackle sexual misconduct, according to the survey of nearly 2,000 women aged between 18 and 30 in England and Wales.

Nearly a third said they did not know how to report sexual harassment at work, with a similar percentage saying there has been "talk but no action to tackle sexual harassment since the #MeToo movement started".

About 15% knew of harassment cases that were reported but not dealt with properly, and 5% said they were forced to change jobs due to sexual harassment, assault or abuse.

A 2017 survey found that more than half of British women had suffered sexual harassment while at a place of work or study, ranging from inappropriate comments to sexual assault.

"#MeToo has helped place a public spotlight on how widespread sexual harassment is in the workplace," said Alexandra Patsalides, a human rights lawyer at women's rights group Equality Now.

"Employers must send a clear message that sexual misconduct is never acceptable and effective policies need to be implemented that address predatory sexual misbehaviour and hold perpetrators fully to account," she said.

(Reporting by Sonia Elks @soniaelks; Editing by Belinda Goldsmith Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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