For the past month, Harvey Weinstein has made headlines with numerous women stepping forward with allegations of sexual harassment and sexual violence.
Many people have blamed the culture of Hollywood but Weinstein is only a drop in the ocean.
There is a global epidemic where victims of workplace sexual harassment are shamed into silence.
As a 25-year-old woman I have been in the workforce for more than a decade, and during that time I have been sexually harassed on countless occasions.
Prior to my time with Fairfax Media, I was one of millions of people who have had others comment on my appearance, clothing and personal life.
At one time, I even was forced to invent a fake partner to discourage the advances of a co-worker. I don’t believe my experiences reflect the tip of the iceberg of sexual harassment occurring but they still left me with a taste of shame and fear, which stopped me from speaking out.
Sexual harassment or sexual violence doesn’t discriminate and it is not a gendered issue – it’s a societal one.
But when did it become so prevalent and seemingly accepted? Maybe the heart of the problem is many perpetrators of sexual harassment don’t even recognise their own behaviour because it’s become so common.
A national survey conducted by the Australian Human Rights Commission in 2012 found that one in four women had been sexually harassed at work in the past five years.
But how many came forward? Without acknowledgement, how can this problem change? It seems so deeply embedded in society that survivors just accept it.
The commission will conduct the fourth national workplace sexual harassment survey next month and I welcome it.
It is a disgusting abuse of power, which can have ongoing impacts on people’s lives and needs to be stamped out.
We need to continue to shine a light on sexual harassment and sexual violence in the workplace, and encourage survivors to speak out.
As a community, we need to break the cycle and establish a new culture where individuals can work in a safe environment without fear of sexual harassment or sexual assault.
- Meg Francis is a reporter in Fairfax Media’s north-west group.