‘Significant number’ of victims of new forms of sexual harassment online, says survey

The aim of the survey was to obtain data and evidence about “new forms” of sexual harassment and to assess the safety of “online workspace” for women.
Photo credit: European Parliament Audiovisual

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

02 Jun 2020

The survey, conducted by the MeTooEP campaign, received over 5,000 replies, with 827 of respondents reporting having experienced sexual harassment online during the current health crisis.

Some 888 people had experienced “zoom-bombing”, stalking or threats online. Zoom-bombing, say the survey authors, is just one example of “new types” of harassment.

Nearly half of those surveyed said they were too afraid to take further action when asked if they had sought help after experiencing sexual harassment or other threats online.


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A further 63 percent of respondents reported that their workplaces had not implemented any measures to address sexual harassment.

The survey follows on from reports by EU Fundamental Rights Agency and leading Chief Security Officers which have detailed problems women face from what they call new forms of sexual harassment online.

MeTooEP, a European Parliament-based campaign group, is now calling on the EU institutions, including Parliament and the Commission, and “all other workplaces” to introduce new measures tackling what it calls “old and new” types of harassment.

It says such measures should include mandatory training courses against sexual harassment, an emergency number for victims of all forms of sexual harassment as well as “due diligence measures” by employers.

“The survey comes after a sharp rise in domestic violence in many countries since the start of the current health crisis”

A spokesperson for the campaign said, “We also call on all Member States to ratify the ILO Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019.”

This is a global treaty, adopted in 2019, aimed at protecting workers from violence and harassment.

Such issues were the reason for the launch of the MeTooEP initiative in March 2018.

It was started by Jeanne Ponté, who began working as an assistant to an MEP in 2014 and herself experienced “unwanted” advances a few weeks into her job.

The aim of the MeTooEP campaign, launched following alarming revelations of rampant sexual harassment and assault in the entertainment industry, is to combat sexual harassment and lobby for better working conditions within the European Parliament.

MeTooEP collects anonymous testimonies of sexual harassment and assault in Parliament.

The survey comes after a sharp rise in domestic violence in many countries since the start of the current health crisis.

“Nearly half of those surveyed said they were too afraid to take further action when asked if they had sought help after experiencing sexual harassment or other threats online”

In the first week of France’s Coronavirus lockdown, authorities reported a more than 30 percent rise in the country’s domestic violence cases.

Although the government has put a number of measures in place to make it easier for victims to report such abuses, few seem to have taken advantage of them so far.

UK MPs, meanwhile, say there had been a “surge” in violence since the lockdown began.

Calls to the UK National Domestic Abuse helpline rose by 49 percent and killings doubled since restrictions on public life were introduced, says a report by MPs.

MEPs, meanwhile, recently stepped up their efforts by calling for more “concrete action” to help tackle what they call the “often hidden pandemic of domestic violence.”

A letter to the Council and Commission, signed by 15 members, says that during the current pandemic women and children have been “confronted with a violent reality.”

Meanwhile, a study by the Bertelsmann Stiftung think tank has found that the majority of women are optimistic about their own lives, yet not as optimistic as the majority of men. At the same time the study, called “The Optimism Paradox”, said women are much more pessimistic about the future of their own country than men.

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