When is sexual harassment not sexual harassment? | Paul Doran Law

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When is sexual harassment not sexual harassment?

In research published last year by the TUC, more than half of women say they have been sexually harassed at work – but most didn’t report it due to: worry that it would affect their relationships at work (28%), fear they would not be taken seriously (24%), or embarrassment (20%).

However, it seems victims are speaking out more often these days.

You might have noticed the recent #MeToo campaign on social media, where (usually) women shared their stories of being sexually harassed. It arose from a rush of media interest in the topic.

Here are some of the latest headlines you might have noticed:

Hollywood

Harvey Weinstein and his brother Bob co-founded Miramax which produced several popular independent films including Pulp Fiction. He won an Academy Award for producing Shakespeare in Love, and got seven Tony awards for plays and musicals including Billy Elliott the Musical. In October 2017, he was fired by the board of directors of his company, and expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, following numerous allegations of sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape.

This case has prompted a series of similar allegations. For example:

Rush Hour Director, Brett Ratner, has been accused of sexual harassment by six actresses. For example, The X-Men Apocalypse star, Olivia Munn, claims he performed a sex act in front of her in 2004, when she went to deliver a meal to his trailer on the set of After the Sunset. She says a lawyer at the time advised not to go up against such a powerful man. He vehemently denies the claims.

Kevin Spacey has apologised over a claim he made an advance on a 14-year-old boy in 1986, but says he has no recollection of the alleged incident.

Dustin Hoffman has apologised for allegedly sexually harassing 17-year-old intern, Anna Graham Hunter, when she was working on the set of Death of a Salesman in 1985, and says he “feels terrible that he might have upset anyone”.

But the focus is not only falling on Hollywood; stories are also coming out from other seats of power, including Westminster.

Parliament

It came to light recently that women working in Westminster have a secret WhatsApp group where they warn each other about MPs with a reputation for sexually inappropriate behaviour. PM Theresa May has been accused of repeatedly ignoring warnings of sex abuse cover-ups. She says accusers should go to the police.

At the time of writing, Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon has just resigned after it emerged that he repeatedly put his hand on journalist Julie Hartley-Brewer’s knee during a party conference dinner in 2002. He admitted his behaviour was inappropriate. She said she was shocked if he’d resigned over “kneegate” as it was 15 years ago and she has no issue with it today. She assumes further allegations will come.

Damian Green, first Secretary of State, is facing an enquiry because he brushed his hand against the knee of freelance columnist and party activist, Kate Maltby, in a pub in 2015, and subsequently sent her suggestive text messages.

And it’s not just the Tories.

Labour MP for Sheffield Hallam, Jared O’Mara, has stepped down from the women and equalities select committee after it emerged that he’d posted sexist and homophobic comments online 15 years ago. He said he was “deeply ashamed”.

The Labour MP of Luton North, Kelvin Hopkins, has been suspended from the party amid allegations of sexual harassment. Ava Etemadzadeh claims he behaved inappropriately and sent her suggestive text messages after she invited him to speak at an event in 2014.

In fact, stories are coming out of all organisations where people – usually men – abuse the power they have over their employees.

Other organisations

 RAF employee, Rebecca Crookshank, said she was harassed when deployed to the Falkland Islands 15 years ago when she was aged 20. She was offered a flight to secure her silence.

Nurse, Michelle Russell, has been unable to work since she was sexually assaulted two years ago. She has lost pay and been banned from talking to colleagues.

18-year-old, Becka Hudson, suffered a torrent of harassment when she was on a zero-hours contract as a waitress where her manager slapped her bum and called her names.

Have you been sexually harassed?

Sexual harassment is any unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature that makes you feel intimidated or uncomfortable, whether verbal or non-verbal.

It could be sexual comments or jokes (whether verbal or via email), inappropriate touching, unwelcome sexual advances, leering or wolf-whistling, or displaying sexually offensive images.

You are protected from this behaviour by legislation.

If it’s happened to you, here are your options:

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