Mark Graham / AP
A new report from Australia has found that one in three people working for parliamentary offices in the country has been sexually harassed, describing a far-reaching culture of abuse in Australia’s highest government offices.
The 456-page report, commissioned by the Australian Government, included interviews and surveys with more than 1,000 participants, who are current and former members of Parliament.
Entitled “Set the Standard”, the report showed that women experienced a higher degree of sexual harassment, bullying and sexual assault than men. Forty percent of women experienced sexual harassment there compared to 26% of men. More people who identify as LGBTQ + experienced harassment compared to those who identify as heterosexual – 53% compared to 31%.
The report also found that 63% of female parliamentarians experienced sexual harassment, compared to 24% of male parliamentarians. The figure is far higher than the national average of women who report being sexually harassed, which is 39%.
Approximately 1% of respondents reported experiencing sexual assault, but the survey did not ask them to elaborate on their experience.
The power dynamics at stake
The report examines some of the root causes of a culture of sexual harassment. More than half of those who reported sexual harassment said it came from someone who held a higher position than them. Of the people who said they had been bullied, more than 75% said it came from someone older than them.
Respondents also noted that they did not believe that reporting cases of harassment and abuse would result in any change, and most said it would have a negative impact on their careers and personal lives. Only 11% of people who experienced sexual harassment reported it.
“Some people described the feeling that the only options were to tolerate the offense or leave it, rather than expecting the offense to be resolved,” the report said.
Massive #MeToo protests in Australia this year
The report, which outlines the extent of the culture of sexual misconduct in Australia’s Parliament, comes just months after thousands protested in March in another wave of the #MeToo movement.
The protests were triggered in part by Brittany Higgins, a former member of parliament, who revealed that she had been raped in a minister’s office in 2019. Then four more women came forward to say that the same man also raped them.
Around the same time, it emerged that Australian Justice Minister Christian Porter was accused of raping a 16-year-old girl when he was a teenager. The victim died of suicide last year. Porter dismissed the claim.
“This is not a political issue. This is a human issue,” Higgins said at the protests in March. “We have all learned over the last few weeks how common gender violence is in this country. It is time that our leaders on both sides of politics stop avoiding the public and circumventing accountability. It is time, we are actually tackling the problem. ”