One in four male victims of workplace sexual harassment were harassed by other men but Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner says gay men may not be to blame.
New research from the Australian Human Rights Commission has found about one third of sexual harassment is from the same sex.
Male-to-male sexual harassment in the workplace has climbed over the past decade from just seven percent of all cases in 2003 to almost a quarter (23 percent) this year.
The majority of same sex harrasment cases were between men over the past five years, accounting for four out of five cases.
The Australian Human Rights Commission released its ‘Working without fear: results of the sexual harassment national telephone survey 2012’ report on Tuesday.
Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick told the Star Observer more research was needed to understand the statistics better.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily about gay men at all,” she said.
“We need more research to understand the nature of same-sex sexual harassment; is it the same as heterosexual [harassment] or is it something about homophobia, transphobia, we just don’t know.”
One explanation for the high rates of male-to-male sexual harassment was men being bullied who didn’t conform to the prevailing ‘macho’ culture in male-dominated industries.
Skilled tradesmen were the most likely to experience same-sex harassment at work (17 percent) than men in any other industry, the report found.
“For example in the construction industry, it might be the man who likes reading rather than sport or whatever that prevailing ‘macho’ culture is,” Broderick said.
Workplace discrimination is one of the key targets for the recently launched No To Homophobia campaign.
No To Homophobia spokeswoman Anna Brown welcomed the research and said homophobia most likely played a part.
“It’s too soon to say if the high instance of male to male sexual harassment is homophobic or not,” she said.
“One would assume that at least a proportion of these instances of male-to-male sexual harassment would be driven by homophobia.”
“There’s no doubt that there’s more work to do to ensure that workplaces are free from sexual harassment including homophobic, biphobic and transphobic harassment.”
Brown said sexual harassment victims needed to know where to find support and bystanders needed to find out how they can help when they see colleagues being sexually harassed.
The report found 51 percent of bystanders did something to help or prevent it from happening.
Broderick said workplaces needed to address the issue better in future.
“When I speak to employers, policies have to account for same sex sexual harassment, I think that’s really important,” she said.
Broderick said she would be pushing to have further questions about same-sex harassment included in the next four-year study to get a better understanding of the issue.