Survey: Workplace sexual harassment complaints rise

More than half of those surveyed were unaware that sexual relations between workers and their bosses are forbidden.

sexual harassment 88 (photo credit: )
sexual harassment 88
(photo credit: )
Israeli help centers are receiving more calls regarding sexual harassment in the workplace, according to a recent survey. The survey, which was conducted by Millward Brown, examined the level of exposure and awareness of harassment incidents in the workplace. Awareness of everything connected to the subject of sexual harassment in the workplace was low, the survey revealed. More than half of those surveyed were unaware that sexual relations between workers and their bosses are forbidden, and 28 percent of those surveyed said they had experienced some sort of sexual harassment in the workplace within the past three years. Eleven percent of all calls received by help centers in 2008 were related to incidents in the workplace; 70.4% of the attackers were bosses or authority figures, while 14.3% were friends, acquaintances or someone the victim trusted. There was an increase of 12.2% in appeals to help centers regarding sexual harassment in the workplace in 2008 compared with 2007. There was also an increase of 11% in help-center cases that were referred to the police. "The subject of sexual assault in the workplace has become, in the past few years, a significant part of the work done by help centers," said Michal Rosen, head of the Association of Help Centers. "From the extensive work done by our education department in workplaces... we have learned about the gap between the frequency of the phenomenon and the number of reports... of sexual assault in the workplace." Help centers received a total of 37,526 appeals in 2008, which was less than in 2007, said Einat Rubin, a spokeswoman for the organization. A contributing factor for why the percentage of calls reporting incidents in the workplace went up could be the media, she said. Prominent cases such as those of Moshe Katzav and Haim Ramon have brought more attention to the issue of harassment in the workplace and were influencing more women to seek help, she said. "There's been a rise in awareness [of the issue] in the past few years," Rubin said. "It's spoken about more in media. There's more understanding, no more need to sweep it under the rug." "After a big article is published, we always get a lot of women calling," she said. The activities of help centers throughout the country were helping, Rubin said. "We do a lot of work out in the field," she said. Each help center in the country has an education department, which is responsible for giving presentations, workshops and seminars, she said. In 2008, centers gave 610 such presentations in workplaces throughout the country. There are nine help centers throughout the country, including Kiryat Shmona in the North and Beersheba in the South. They conduct a wide variety of activities to help support victims and raise awareness of the issues. In addition to education programs, help centers offer one-on-one meetings and support groups to help victims of sexual harassment. One of the main programs run by the centers is a 24-hour help line that provides an immediate source of aid and support to victims. "It's an anonymous call that just lets them [the victims] talk," Rubin said. "We don't ask anything; we're just here for them." The help centers also aid those who wish to go to the police. Many victims don't choose to go to the police, she said, adding, "It's a long and difficult process." The media and current events have contributed to the rise in the number of victims who go to the police, Rubin said. "The big stories are showing that there is a result [when you go to the police and the legal system]," she said. "Something is strengthening [the victims and they are beginning to the feel that] the state is doing something. They feel more understood by the system." Rubin said more work still needed to be done. "What is reported to us isn't what really happens - it's just a small part of it," she said. "Most victims don't speak about it. There are a lot of victims... and those who come to us are the strong ones and the brave ones."