The Rural, Regional and Remote Women’s Network (RRR Network) has uncovered alarming and concerning responses from its recent online Survey on Sexual Harassment in Western Australia. The survey reveals that many WA rural and regional women continue to experience sexual harassment at their work place. Questions within the survey focus on the various forms of sexual harassment as defined by the Australian Human Rights Commission; demographics including work place size and industry; and seeks to assess how much the WA public have welcomed the recent surge in discussion of sexual harassment.

To date, the RRR Network Survey has collected the opinions and experiences of 166 participants state-wide, and are calling for more to participate to assist their submission into the National Enquiry into Sexual Harassment in the Work Place, led by Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins

Nearly 92% of the RRR Network survey participants agreed with the public definition that sexual harassment is any unwanted or unwelcome sexual behaviour which makes a person feel offended, humiliated or intimidated; and agreed that it is not interaction, flirtation or friendship which is mutual or consensual. Almost half of the respondents ‘neither agreed or disagreed’ that ‘suggestive sexual commentary and joking’ constituted sexual harassment; a grey area of the sexual harassment definition that has attracted divisive public debate. The results of the RRR Network survey suggest that WA women can clearly separate sexual harassment from normalised and reciprocated flirting.

The RRR Network found that over 20% of women reported being scared or concerned at some stage to go to work because of sexual harassment and 12% have taken time off work because of it.

The most outstanding statistic of the RRR Network survey so far has been that 58% of women have altered their behaviour at work to avoid certain people or situations because of unwanted or unwelcome behaviour, and more than half the women surveyed have reported experiencing unnecessary familiarity, such as deliberately brushing up against or unwelcome touching; being asked intrusive questions about their private life or physical appearance, or having received insults or taunts of a sexual nature. These insights demonstrate that WA women continue to be subject to sexual harassment in its various forms on any given day at their work place. 40% of women reported that they had been sexually harassed by a client, customer or contractor related to their work.

Jackie Jarvis, the CEO of the RRR Network said “to date there has been a lack of data around sexual harassment rates specific to WA rural and regional workplaces and we are calling on men and women from across WA to complete the survey so we can make detailed recommendations to the National Enquiry”

The online survey can be found on the RRR website at rrrnetwork.com.au or on their Facebook site. The RRR Network will close the survey at the end of January and complete its recommendations to the National Enquiry into Sexual Harassment in February.

The Rural, Regional, Remote Women’s Network of Western Australia (RRR Network) is a not-for-profit communication and training network for inspiring and connecting regional women. We recognise the value in connecting WA women and supporting the contribution women make to economic and community development of regional WA.

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