Acknowledging that stories of sexual harassment at work are all too common – particularly in male-dominated workplaces – Ms Hilton noted that the Commission has seen a 40 per cent increase in complaints since the MeToo movement took off in late 2017.
The Commission is also receiving more enquiries from employers wanting to know how to prevent a workplace culture that allows sexual harassment in the first place.
This is a positive result, showing that women are prepared to trust in the process and employers are finding out more about their obligations.
Ms Hilton also talked about the increased vulnerability of casual employees, whose environments are often less regulated. She said the idea that women don’t speak up or complain because there are consequences is a reality.
The panel featured Izzi Manfredi, lead singer of The Preatures; Josh Bornstein, an employment lawyer who heads the National Employment and Industrial Law practice at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers; Janet Albrechtsen, columnist for The Australian and The Weekend Australian; and Catharine Lumby, Professor of Media at Macquarie University. The special was hosted by Virginia Trioli.
In case you missed it, you can watch in on ABC iview and download the full episode or read a transcript on the ABC Q&A website.
The Commission hears regularly from women across the board, from every industry you can imagine, who are subjected to the same kind of behaviour. And women aged 18–24 are most at risk.
We hear about pornographic material in the workplace, lewd jokes, comments of a sexual nature, texts with sexual innuendo and graphic pictures, touching someone inappropriately, as well as sexual assault and rape.
In the past two years we’ve had almost 200 complaints about sexual harassment. In just the past six months we’ve had 50 complaints, which is a tiny, tiny portion of the reality for women across Victoria. We know women are afraid to report sexual harassment for fear of losing their jobs.
The good news is that we can help. Working Without Fear, the results of the 2012 national telephone survey into the prevalence of sexual harassment by the Australian Human Rights Commission, showed that almost half (45 per cent) of survey respondents who had experienced sexual harassment and made a formal complaint said that the harassment stopped.
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