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Majority of perpetrators of sexual harassment at work suffer no consequences — AWARE

“The fear of not being believed is often compounded by victim-blaming and skepticism that survivors receive from others, perceived stigma that accompanies the label of being a sexual harassment victim, and a lack of evidence to substantiate the harassment.” — Shailey Hingorani, AWARE

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Singapore — After a study was published last month saying that women who experience sexual harassment at work also face backlash in their careers and personal finances, commenters online wondered why the women did not simply report the harassment.

However, reporting sexual harassment at the workplace is hardly a simple matter for the victims, explained Ms Shailey Hingorani, who heads the Workplace Harassment and Discrimination Advisory of gender equality advocacy group AWARE, which published the results of the study, titled ‘I Quit’, on Dec 8.

In an email to The Independent Singapore (TISG), Ms Hingorani said there are many reasons why workplace sexual harassment victims are discouraged from reporting their experiences, with the number one reason being fear of retaliation.

Additionally, she said that a majority of the harassers “ultimately suffered no consequences or sanctions at the workplace, with complaints ultimately being dismissed by the companies.”

Also, some women who do report incidents of sexual harassment at work become re-traumatised in the process, and some did not experience a good outcome to the reporting.

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AWARE found that over half of the women who were sexually harassed at work, (54.6 per cent) did not report their harassment to official channels.

The biggest reason for this, Ms Hingorani said, is fear of retaliation from employers, perpetrators, or even their own colleagues.

“Workplace retaliation manifests in many forms: Respondents experienced sudden deterioration in performance reviews, social and/or professional ostracisation, and being fired or replaced. This led to financial setbacks too, with respondents reporting having to switch to lower-paying jobs or changing industries entirely,” she said.

Another fear victims of workplace sexual harassment face is that of not being believed.

“The fear of not being believed is often compounded by victim-blaming and skepticism that survivors receive from others, perceived stigma that accompanies the label of being a sexual harassment victim, and a lack of evidence to substantiate the harassment,” Ms Hingorani added.

Some victims believe that reporting such incidents may not even be worth it, especially those who work in part-time or temporary positions, or those who work in firms with no Human Resources division or have no clearly stated harassment policies.

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And the actual process of reporting was not an easy one for some women who did file reports after being sexually harassed in the workplace, as some were re-traumatised during an investigation in cases when “the process was hostile or lacked confidentiality,” wrote Ms Hingorani.

Moreover, 60 per cent of the women who participated in AWARE’s study said their colleagues “were not supportive or encouraging about filing official reports,” while others were told by HR to prioritise the companies’ reputations rather than filing official police reports, and some were pressured to have their claims settled internally instead of through official channels. /TISG

Read also: Second female employee sues Tesla for sexual harassment, claims ‘hostile work environment’ against women

Second female employee sues Tesla for sexual harassment, claims ‘hostile work environment’ against women

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