Three-quarters of female respondents in a local survey have experienced sexual harassment at the workplace.
The study also shows that three out of every 10 believe that victims of sexual harassment are partly to blame because of the way they dress or behave.
This show of victim blaming comes hot on the heels of an international campaign fighting sexual violence and harassment in the workplace called Time’s Up.
The research found only 17 per cent of the female respondents had never experienced or witnessed sexual harassment at the workplace and nearly half had both experienced and witnessed it.
More than 27 per cent experienced harassment but never saw it happening to others.
The research by Men Against Violence and the Women’s Rights Foundation is part of a project funded by the Malta Community Chest Fund dealing with sexual harassment at the workplace.
32 per cent of male and female respondents believed that the victims of sexual harassment were at least partially to blame due to the way they dressed or behaved
Nearly one-fifth of the 600 respondents were men, more than a third of whom said they had never experienced or witnessed sexual harassment at the workplace. Another third just saw fellow colleagues falling victim to it and nearly a fifth both experienced and witnessed it. Seven per cent said they had just experienced harassment.
For Men Against Violence president Aleksandar Dimitrijevic, the results are quite comparable to other European countries.
However, he noted, it was disappointing to see that 32 per cent of male and female respondents believed that the victims of sexual harassment were at least partially to blame due to the way they dressed or behaved.
This indicated that the culture of victim blaming was still pervasive, he added.
Both male and female respondents reported experiences of various forms of sexual harassment. However, most of the victims of the more violent forms, like rape, attempted rape or sexual assault, were women.
Mr Dimitrijevic noted that violence was not a problem of a particular section of the population but one of society as a whole.
While the majority of the victims are women, research shows that when men are harassed or bullied, harassment takes a gendered form.
“For instance, when men were exposed to crude sexism or pornography at work and objected to it, they were ostracised for not being ‘man enough’ or not being the ‘right kind of man’.
Some men felt that women dressing ‘provocatively’ was a form of sexual harassment against them
“It was also interesting that some men felt that women dressing ‘provocatively’ was a form of sexual harassment against them,” Mr Dimitrijevic said.
Understanding the origins of gender stereotypes and breaking them down would also lead to less violence against men, he said.
“More gender equality leads to less sexual harassment and other forms of violence, which is good for women, men and everyone.”
The detailed findings will be published in early 2019, but in the meantime, Men Against Violence and the Women’s Rights Foundation will be holding two workshops – one for employers and another for workers – based on the results available.
The workshop for employers will aim to help company managers draw up a sexual harassment policy to protect workers from harassment and, at the same time, safeguard the interests of the company.
The other one will seek to help employees create a better, safer and healthier working environment by furthering their understanding of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour at work.
More information on the free workshops is available from firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
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