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Australians report increase in sexual harassment


Rates of physical violence are declining in Australia but sexual harassment is on the rise for both women and men, a wide-ranging survey has found.

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As Hollywood reels from the Harvey Weinstein scandal, a survey of more than 21,000 Australians has found that more than half of women and a quarter of men have been sexually harassed.

And despite many forms of sexual harassment being outlawed for more than three decades, there’s been a significant rise in incidents including unwanted touching, inappropriate comments, and indecent messages since 2012.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics Personal Safety survey found the proportion of women who were sexually harassed in the past 12 months jumped to 17 per cent in 2016 from 15 per cent four years earlier, while for men the rate climbed from 6.6 per cent to 9.3 per cent.

“Young women aged 18 to 24 years were the most likely to experience sexual harassment, with around two in five (38 per cent or 421,400) reporting being sexually harassed in the past 12 months,” ABS program manager for household surveys Michelle Marquardt said today.

While women were most likely to be sexually harassed by men, for men the perpetrators were just as likely to be female or male.

The most common types of harassment were inappropriate comments about their body or sex life, followed by unwanted touching, grabbing, kissing, fondling, indecent exposure, and indecent text messages, emails or by post.

The rise in sexual harassment contrasts with the continuing downward trend in rates of physical violence.

While two in five Aussies have endured some form of violence since they were 15, the proportion of men who experienced physical violence in the past year fell to 5.4 per cent in 2016 from 8.5 per cent four years earlier while for women the rate fell to 3.5 per cent from 4.6 per cent.

Young men aged 18-34 and women aged 18-24 were the most likely victims.

In terms of their most recent experience of physical violence, most men were attacked by a male stranger at an entertainment or recreation venue while nearly all women were assaulted at home by a male they knew.

Nearly two thirds of men and half of all women who were physically attacked by a male believed alcohol or another substance was a contributing factor.

Most didn’t report the recent incident to police.

While men and women are both more likely to experience physical violence than sexual violence, about four times as many women than men have endured sexual violence.

The ABS survey found a slight rise in the proportion of women who experienced sexual violence in the past 12 months, from 1.2 per cent in 2012 to 1.8 per cent in 2016.

Nine out of 10 women who were sexually assaulted by a male in the past year knew the perpetrator, usually their current or former partner.


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