Statistics issued over the last few months by the NGO, ‘Men Against Violence’ in collaboration with the Women’s Rights Foundation and the Malta Community Chest Fund indicates alarming figures where three out of every four women have experienced some form of sexual harassment at their place of work. Many said that they went through this harassment themselves while others said that they saw it happening to their colleagues. The same study indicates that there are men who experienced the same situation at the workplace, but only one third of men who were part of the study said they ever experienced sexual harassment.
We spoke with Rene Laiviera from the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality who explained that with sexual harassment, a person would be bothering another person through their sexual connotations or behaviour. Workplaces are made up of people with different characters. Therefore attention should always be paid to one’s language and behaviour, because no individual should feel uncomfortable at work. She said that there is still the impression that only young women who wear provocative clothing are harassed, but this is not true. “I know of cases of women over 50 who have been sexually harassed,” said Laviera, while pointing out that one should also consider the impact which this harassment leaves on the individual’s personal life, with their partner and children.
Sarah Jane Mifsud, the head of the Treatment for Victims of Sexual Aggression within Victim Support Malta said that every case needs to be analysed individually because each case is different. In fact, not all the victims are affected in the same way. Mifsud explained that they regularly met with people who are afraid to go back to work because they know they have to face the harassing behaviour. She said that there are cases where the victim starts to suffer from anxiety or even depression. “We need to be sensitive because we do not know how the person will be affected by such behaviour.”