It’s 2017 but you wouldn’t guess it from this staggering statistic – 16% of women across Southeast Asia have experienced sexual harassment at work.
This is according to new research from Monster.com. In Singapore, the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) says 267 people reported to its Sexual Assault Care Centre last year. There were also 222 protection orders issued to offenders during the same period.
Why is this still happening? While we’ve made tremendous progress around gender bias and equality, sexual harassment remains a delicate topic and all too prevalent.
On top of the taboo associated with talking about sexual assault, many times victims are afraid of losing their jobs and a steady source of income. Experts say abusers often pick women who are in disadvantageous positions, such as single mothers or new hires.
Equally though, women who do come forward aren’t taken seriously enough by HR departments. Just ask Susan Fowler, the former Uber engineer who said she was sexually harassed by her direct supervisor, but her complaints to HR and upper management were ignored, ultimately forcing her to resign and go public with her experience.
What should you if you experience sexual harassment? Record it – Start writing down every inappropriate comment and gesture. Whether it’s an internal investigation or if the matter proceeds to court, you will be required to produce evidence, so be as specific as possible: record dates, places, times and if there were witnesses around.
Make sure you’re not alone – Try to avoid situations that leave you alone with this person, and insist on leaving the doors open. If you have to as much as pass by the person’s desk, take a colleague along and ensure someone knows where you are at all times.
Know your company policy – Get to know your company’s harassment-related policies. When reporting the matter, ensure you keep the paper trail of your correspondence with HR and management. If the company doesn’t take your complaint seriously, seek help from an outside agency such as AWARE. In Singapore, victims may also seek civil remedies such as a Protection Order (PO) or Expedited Protection Order (EPO) against offenders.
Click here to find a handy list of organisations you can contact to report an offense or seek counsel.
Talk to others – Having a trusted mentor or colleague you can confide in not only gives you much needed support, it can also serve as important evidence when the time comes.
This Mother’s Day Monster Singapore launches #SheMakesItWork, a campaign to support mums returning to work, and to encourage employers to consider more family-friendly work arrangements. Watch the full video below.