Stop sexual harassment - Expect Respect
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 126 No 4, 28 May 2021, page no.16
We know that sexual harassment is on the increase, and that both men and women experience gendered violence.
Sobering statistics can be found in The Resepct@Work report released last year by the Australian Human Right’s Commission (AHRC). We know that you are more likely to experience sexual harassment if you are in insecure work, young, a woman, part of the LGBTIQ+ community, an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, a person of colour or if you have a disability.
The Respect@Work report has garnered attention in the first half of this year; the lack of response by the federal government to the 55 key recommendations has been dismal, and the March4Justice saw our community standing together to say: “Enough is Enough”. The Australian trade union movement (through the ACTU and QCU) has been calling for the 55 recommendations to be fully adopted and a Stop Sexual Harassment campaign has been launched. The QTU supports this campaign, which aligns to the principles of our own Expect Respect campaign.
On Labour Day, Queensland’s Premier announced that there would be a review of the Queensland Industrial Relations Act in response to the Respect@Work Report. The review will investigate protections for workers subjected to sexual harassment in Queensland workplaces, and the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission will be given the power to make anti-sexual harassment orders.
At the start of Term 2, the QTU Expect Respect member survey was launched. The survey seeks to understand members’ experience of gendered violence in school settings and TAFE campuses.
From my direct experiences in working with QTU members, much of the gendered violence experienced is from students. When reported, many feel unsupported. I am aware of situations where teachers were not believed, told to get over it, and alarmingly, that “boys will be boys”. Member experiences reported to the Union include upskirting, exposure, rape threats, stalking and disparaging and sexist language. We know that gender inequality underpins gendered violence and harassment.
Our Watch continues to do significant research and work in this space – and there is no disputing that explicitly addressing gender stereotypes and gender roles in the early years and throughout schooling, including addressing consent, will be a primary prevention tool in addressing domestic and family violence and other forms of violence against women, including sexual violence. The statistics in relation to sexual assaults in Queensland among young people are alarming. We also know that rigid gender norms harm our male students. Many young men feel unable to convey emotions and self-express, and therefore engage in self-destructive behaviours. We also know that male violence harms young men.
As educators, we have the right to be safe at work and be free from gendered harassment. We need our female, non-binary, trans and gender non-confirming students to also feel safe in their places of learning. What message does it send these young people when they see their teachers being harassed – and there being no consequences? What safety nets are there for them to report their own experiences when teachers are not believed “because there was no witness” or are told to “toughen up”? We desperately need reporting frameworks that are supportive and accessible, training for managers to help them address and deal with reports of sexual harassment, and workplaces that make it explicit that sexual harassment is not appropriate. Sexual harassment is a workplace health and safety issue. This is the message all employees should hear – and it is the message that our young people must hear. As educators, we are role-modelling a work environment in addition to providing an education.
Currently the department can provide no data in relation to the prevalence of sexual harassment complaints. Our behaviour reporting mechanisms prevent us from recording student behaviour (directed at educators or students) as gendered harassment. The impact on health and wellbeing, the short and long-term impact, and compounding trauma is not known. This is not good enough.
As educators we too have a right to say: “Enough is Enough”.
What you can do:
- Complete the QTU Expect Respect members survey and support the campaign at https://www.qtu.asn.au/expect-respect
- Sign and support the QCU Stop Sexual Harassment petition at https://act.stopsexualharassment.com.au/home