Sexual Harassment Survey: To Speak or Not to Speak?

2018 / 05 / 16

The #MeToo movement has also made an impact in Lithuania. The results of one survey show an average level of support from the populace towards the women speaking up, though some continue blaming them, claiming that they should’ve spoken up sooner.

Shortly after the start of the #MeToo movement in the US, sexual harassment stories began to pop up all over the Lithuanian public space. Courageous women began to share their stories of harassment. When known public figures came to the center of attention (including politicians, directors, university lecturers and others), the public began to exhibit different reactions to public discussions of harassment.

Support from younger women and youths

At the end of March and the beginning of April, the Lithuanian news agency ELTA commissioned a survey of the attitudes of the Lithuanian population towards sexual harassment and the publication of related stories. The study revealed that, overall, 38% support people going public with their stories of harassment (with 11% being very supportive and 27% somewhat supportive of the decision).

However, a greater proportion (46%) of respondents noted that they do not support the publication of sexual harassment stories (with 14% viewing it very negatively and 32% somewhat negatively). A further 16% had no opinion on the matter or did not answer the question.

Thus, it can be seen that the public is divided into two camps over the publication of sexual harassment or other ill-treatment stories.

The results of the survey also revealed the differences in the views of men and women. In general, women were more likely than men to view the decision to speak up after inappropriate behavior positively (47% viewed public discussion in a positive light). Publication of cases of sexual harassment was most favored by women aged 18-29 (65% were positive and 19% were negative) and 30-49 (53% were positive and 36% negative).

Specialists and clerks (50%) and young people (55%) also expressed support for the women speaking up.

Negative views by men, heads of institutions and seniors

The study also revealed the segments of the population that were against the publication of sexual harassment and other inappropriate behavior.

Namely, it was men and women over the age of 50 that were skeptical about the victims of sexual harassment speaking up. Only a third of men and 38% of women were in support of publication (53% of men and 48% of older women were against it).

Heads of institutions (55%), respondents over the age of 50 (52%), rural residents (48%), people from smaller cities (49%), as well as people over the age of retirement (55%) also viewed speaking up somewhat negatively. Men up to the age of 30 and respondents who hadn’t finished secondary education were more likely than the other groups to not have an opinion on this issue (or refuse to express it).

The public eye is a weapon against sexual harassment

When asked about why they supported women who were speaking up, respondents expressed a desire to prevent the repetition of harassment. Almost a half of respondents (47%) claimed this reason as being the most important. About a third of all respondents thought that women’s rights were not being sufficiently protected in Lithuania, and as such, the publication of painful stories was a way of protecting these rights.

Among those who viewed such actions negatively, the prevailing belief was that the women should’ve spoken out about the harassment immediately, not after so many years had already passed (31%). The poll also revealed signs of victim blaming – a third of the country’s men and women agreed with the statement that “the women themselves were at fault”.

To reduce sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior in our society, we must first properly respond to the voices of the women speaking up – to be empathetic, listen to them and at the same time avoid elements of so-called victim blaming that seem to follow almost as if by inertia.

Prepared with reference to this story from DELFI.