WARNING: This article discusses sexual assault.
In news that should surprise exactly no-one, the whopping majority of young women working in hospitality have experienced sexual harassment on the job. How whopping a majority, you ask? Ooh, somewhere in the vicinity of NINE OUT OF TEN.
A survey conducted by the union United Voice has found that 89% of hospitality workers have experienced sexual harassment while at work. 90% of those surveyed were female, and almost half were under 24 years old.
The sexual harassment came in the usual depressing spectrum: 73% reported unwanted sexual advances, 69% experienced inappropriate touching. 87% copped sexist remarks, 85% received comments on their body, and 84% reported being on the wrong end of sexual innuendo.
Shockingly – or not, depending on your level of cynicism and emotional fatigue at the whole sorry state of the world – nearly one in five respondents said they’d been sexually assaulted at work.
An investigation by the Sydney Morning Herald collected the experiences of a number of young women working in the industry, all various levels of horrifying, and many from when they were under 18:
“I’ve had my bottom pinched or slapped more times than I can count.”
“One [customer] offered me hundreds of dollars for sex then stalked me. The owners refused to kick him out.”
“I’ve been nearly bottled by drunk men for cutting them off.”
“Walking through crowds and getting your arse grabbed, comments on the way you look – that happened most shifts.”
“He was an adult, I was a child. I didn’t want to say anything and jeopardise my job.”
Many spoke of receiving no support at all from managers or other higher ups, who often made excuses for patrons’ bad behaviour, said there was nothing they could do, or simply stopped giving the staff shifts.
48% of survey respondents said that their employers didn’t take workplace harassment seriously. A number of women who spoke to the SMH said their managers were the ones harassing them.
Speaking to Fairfax, Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins said that while the survey results were shocking, they weren’t surprising.
“Particularly for young women, the experience of sexual harassment and sexual assault is a lot worse than the community expects and assumes. Employers often just think it’s part of the deal.”
(Australian Hotels Association chief executive Stephen Ferguson told the same reporter that he thought the results were not “representative of hotel venues“, which is reassuring.)
While United Voice and hospitality unions plan to hold crisis meetings between workers and employers in order to make working in hospo safer, this is a massive cultural problem that is going to take more than a few meetings to resolve. Considering that this is what happens when you search for ‘sexual harassment’ on the WorkSafe Australia website:
…I reckon it’s also going to take the government getting involved in a fairly serious overhaul kinda way, too. Because, honestly.
If you or someone you know has experienced sexual harassment or assault, you can talk to the friendly people at 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732. You can also contact the Human Rights Commission national information service on 1300 656 419 or (02) 9284 9888 and make a complaint about workplace harassment.