'Dismaying' level of sexual harassment in corporate SA - survey

Some 30% of South Africa's women and 18% of its men have been victims of unwanted sexual advances in the workplace, a new survey has found. 

The survey, by modern insights agency Columinate, was conducted among 1 000 urban South Africans, with the research report describing the results as "somewhat dismaying". 

The survey concluded that SA companies needed to improve their sexual harassment policies and procedures to ensure businesses adequately protect their employees.

Among the 30% of women and 18% of men who reported unwanted sexual advances in their workplaces, the participants reported that harassment came in many forms.

A total of 15% of those who experienced harassment reported that the advances were verbal in nature, while 38% admitted said it turned physical with unwanted touching.

About 42% reported experiencing lustful staring at their body parts, and 32% reported receiving messages of a sexual nature.
 
About 57% of women and 47% of men claimed that the unwanted advances came from a workplace peer, while 26% of women reported that a boss or superior was the source of the harassment.

On the other hand, 20% of men said they received unwanted attention and advances from their subordinates.

Addressing the issue

About 39% of men and 22% of women kept quiet about their abuse.
 
About a third of men (30%) feared that no one would believe them when they made the allegation, while 29% of women did not report it because they did not believe management would do anything about it.

About 10% of the harassed people feared retaliation if they reported the matter.
 
More than half of the victims (56% of women and 36% of men) confronted their harasser, while only 16% of respondents reported the incident to HR and 10% of respondents reported it to the authorities.

Out of the 24% of respondents witnessing harassment in the workplace, only 34% intervened on the spot, while 31% of witnesses confronted the harasser or reported it to the organisation.

Based on the findings, it is evident, according to the report, that there is more work to be done by corporate SA to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.

Companies need to ensure that employees are aware of the procedures in place to assist victims of sexual harassment to report the incident without fear of retaliation or consequences for their careers, the report argues.

Furthermore, training should be provided to assist those who may witness sexual harassment in the workplace to intervene appropriately, offer support to the victim and ultimately report the incident.

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