Sexual Harassment in the Work Place

Sexual Harassment in the Work Place

Fighting back against sexual harassment!

Sexual Harassment in the Work Place


Over 122 countries around the world prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace, and many require businesses to undergo specific anti-harassment training. While generational shifts have welcomed more and more educated women into the workforce, the fight against work place harassment has not ended. In fact worldwide, statistics regarding experiences of sexual harassment are largely the same as they were in the 60’s. Let’s explore what sexual harassment could look like today and how we can fight back against it.

The Workplace is for Work

What is sexual harassment at work? Sexual harassment can encompass a range of behaviours and practices of a sexual nature, such as unwanted sexual comments or advances, “jokes”, displaying pictures or posters objectifying women, physical contact or sexual assault. - International Labour Organization Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention 1958 (No. 111)

Are Women Safe at Work?

We’re going to look at the sexual harassment survey released by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family of South Korea in 2018. The survey involved employees of public institutions and private businesses with 30 or more full-time workers, 2,040 general employees of public institutions and 7,264 general employees of private businesses. These results may be reflected in studies in your own country.

📊 Actual state of sexual harassment in the workplace

▶︎ 고용 형태에 따른 피해 경험은 비정규직(9.9%)이 정규직(7.9%)보다 높게 나타났다.

▶︎ 성희롱 유형은 외모에 대한 성적 비유・평가(5.3%), 음담패설(3.4%), 회식자리서 술 따르거나 옆자리 강요(2.7%) 순으로 높게 나타났다.

▶︎ 성희롱 발생 장소는 대부분 회식장소(43.7%)와 사무실(36.8%)’이었다.

▶︎ 성희롱 피해자들은 대부분(81.6%) 피해에 대처하지 않고 ‘참고 넘어갔다’고 응답했다. 그 이유로는 ‘큰 문제라고 생각하지 않아서’(49.7%)와 ‘문제를 제기해도 해결될 것 같지 않아서’(31.8%)가 가장 높았다.

▶︎ The percentage of respondents who experienced sexual harassment at least once during their three-year tenure was 8.1%.

▶︎ The most common rank of the sexual harassment perpetrators was found to be 'upper' (61.1%), followed by 'equal' (21.2%).

▶︎ Most of the sexual harassment perpetrators were male (83.6%).

▶︎ Reports of sexual harassment damage by workplace were higher in public institutions (16.6%) than in private businesses (6.5%).

▶︎ The experience of sexual harassment by age was in the order of under-20s (12.3%), 30s (10.0%), 40s (6.0%), and 50s and older (5.0%), with the younger the age, the more likely they experienced victimisation.

▶︎ The experience of damage caused by employment type was higher in non-regular workers (9.9%) than regular workers (7.9%).

▶︎ Sexual harassment types reported included sexual comparison and evaluation (5.3%), obscene rumors (3.4%), and forced to pour them alcohol or sit next to them (2.7%).

▶︎ Most of the places where sexual harassment occurred were company dinners (43.7%) and in the office (36.8%).

▶︎ Most (81.6%) of the victims of sexual harassment responded that they "put up with it" without dealing with the harassment. The reasons for this were "I don't think it's a big problem" (49.7%) and "I don't think it'll be solved even if I raise the problem" (31.8%).

How to Deal with Work Place Sexual Harassment

The reason why it is difficult to directly address sexual harassment in the workplace is that it is directly connected to livelihood. Many victims are concerned about losing their job if they report their experiences, especially if the perpetrator is a supervisor or senior employee. Cultures of silence leave victims feeling unsupported and isolated, but speaking up is the only way to ensure change.

Then, what should we do when we are sexually harassed by our superiors or colleagues in the workplace?

  • Clearly indicate rejection

    Make clear your refusal, that you find the behaviour inappropriate. It is also a good idea to document the contents containing the rejection to the other party so that it can be used as evidence later.

  • Save any evidence

    In case of any legal situations later, record the date, time, place, specific damages, witnesses or their testimonies, and your feelings after any harassment experiences in detail.

  • Keep a copy of your business performance

    In the event of a legal problem, the other party may take issue with the victim's ability or performance at work, so keep a record of your duties and accomplishments to refute any claims.

  • Report to HR or the business owner

    The provision of safe and effective complaint and dispute resolution mechanisms is a part of every business or organizations duty as an employer. Check your workplace’s suggested channels for reporting, but if necessary don’t be afraid to go above them to ensure fair treatment.

Where you can go for Help - Equal Rights Advocates - U.S.A Equal Employment Opportunity Commission 📞 1-800-669-4000 - Korean Sexual Violence Crisis Center 📞 02-883-9284 - UK ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) Helpline 📞 0300 123 1100 - Australian Human Rights Commission 📞 1300 656 419

Active intervention as a Third-Party Bystander

It’s the infamous manager in the office. Always making sexual jokes, flirting with the young employees. Everyone knows who it is, but no one says anything. Maybe they warn the new employee’s not to be alone with them. Maybe they brush it off as a joke. But no one ever says to their face to stop, that it’s wrong. The higher the managers seniority, the stronger the silence.

The more bystanders remain silent and allow this kind of culture to continue, the work these kind of working environments seem ‘normal’. And unfortunately, sexual assault is much more likely to occur in these environments.

A study conducted in the U.S. emphasized the need for bystander intervention education, saying that sexual harassment in the workplace thrives more on the back of a pervasive atmosphere of tolerance and a culture of silence. Educating those who remain on the sidelines on how to recognize sexual harassment in the workplace, intervene in cases, and empathize with victims can improve gender sensitivity and attitude, as well as prevent sexual harassment by interfering before sexual harassment occurs.

In one surveys results, 61.5% of witnesses to workplace sexual harassment stated that they had ‘done nothing in particular’. If just 10% of that 61.5% has stood on the side of the victim, perhaps the situation today would be different.


  • Familiarize yourself with how to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace and firmly refuse any inappropriate behavior
  • Education for bystanders to sexual harassment in the workplace is needed to change the culture of silence
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