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Report of increased sexual harassment as fears of unemployment widen -

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Report of increased sexual harassment as fears of unemployment widen



DAVID MARGAN: As the recession continues, there's been an increase in reports of sexual harassment at work. According to State Equal Opportunity Commissioners, the true picture may even be worse, because some people are afraid to complain for fear of losing their jobs. John O'Neill reports from Adelaide.

RE-ENACTMENT

UNIDENTIFIED: Good day. You look great. How about dinner?

UNIDENTIFIED: No thanks. Excuse me. I've got work to get on with.

UNIDENTIFIED: Oh, careful.

UNIDENTIFIED: Are you right?

UNIDENTIFIED: You've got a great body.

UNIDENTIFIED: I don't really think that's appropriate, you know.

UNIDENTIFIED: Look. All men think with their dicks. You just have to get used to it.

JOHN O'NEILL: These re-enactments depict just one of 716 complaints of sexual harassment received by the Equal Opportunity Commission in the last 12 months. This is what happened when the woman involved complained to her boss.

RE-ENACTMENT

MANAGER: What's the problem you're having with Barry, Amanda?

AMANDA: Oh, he's always rubbing himself up against me.

MANAGER: Well, you should be able to handle situations like that, at your level.

AMANDA: Handle it? I mean, he rubs himself up against me at the filing cabinet, ....

MANAGER: Oh, just try and develop a sense of humour about it.

JOHN O'NEILL: But ultimately, it was the Manager's sense of humour that was tested. The firm had to pay the woman $15,000 compensation and the harasser was demoted, counselled, and forced to give the woman a written apology.

Robyn Ellard was working in a take-away food store when she was sexually harassed by its co-owner last year. She was seventeen.

ROBYN ELLARD: He would come up behind me and put dishes around both of my sides so he could sort of put his arms around me; he would pat me on my bottom and he would touch me and tickle me. And on the last night, he made a comment on my breasts - asked me if I pumped them up with air. And I was extremely astounded by this and just sort of went: What? Then he asked me if I pricked them with a pin would they go down. And I was terribly astounded by this. I couldn't believe he'd ask me this.

JOHN O'NEILL: And what happened after that?

ROBYN ELLARD: Just before I was about to go home, he stood in front of me in a doorway and asked if I would kiss him goodnight. And I was quite shocked and horrified by this, and the only way I could get out, since he was standing in front of me, was to, I suppose, do it, and he's bigger than me. So I gave him a really light kiss on the cheek just to get him away and I just walked out and I rang up the next day and told him I didn't want to work.

JOHN O'NEILL: Robyn took her complaint to the Equal Opportunity Commission where her employer said his harassment was her fault.

ROBYN ELLARD: He told the people that were dealing with the case that my clothing was too tight, and ....

JOHN O'NEILL: Was that the case?

ROBYN ELLARD: Well, no. As you can see, this T-shirt I'm wearing now, was one of the - the night he asked me about my breasts, it was the same T-shirt I wore then.

JOHN O'NEILL: So what was the final outcome of the whole dispute? What happened?

ROBYN ELLARD: Well, I didn't really want to receive any monetary gain from him. I just wanted satisfaction at knowing that he had learnt his lesson and to receive an apology from him, would have been nice, which I did. In the end, I got this letter here, which - I'll just read a section to you - and he states here: 'It was not my intention to offend, humiliate or cause you distress and I am sorry if any of my actions were perceived, by you, as harassment'.

JOHN O'NEILL: And did that make you feel better about what had happened?

ROBYN ELLARD: It was a bit of a relief to know that he could see that - even if he didn't know what he'd done wrong, he had done something wrong and it would make him think in the future.

JOHN O'NEILL: Well, the cases of sexual harassment that we've seen so far have been fairly typical and fairly traditional. But interestingly, the Equal Opportunity Commission says that sexual harassment also happens to men. In fact, it cites the case of Rick. Rick asked his female boss for a pay rise and she suggested they talk about it, at home, after work. In fact, Rick took time off. He was ill with stress after she repeatedly asked him out to dinner, and ultimately, the Commissioner awarded him $1,500 in compensation.

SANDRA BROADBRIDGE: I'd recently separated, gone back to work after a five-year absence, and a 17-year-old marriage had died, so it's a delicate time in your life to be asked: How does it feel to not have a man between your legs?

JOHN O'NEILL: Sandra Broadbridge doesn't fit this stereotype of the people who get sexually harassed, either. She was 36 and a single mother at the time of this incident.

SANDRA BROADBRIDGE: He started jumping across the desk and grabbing at my breasts, always when I was alone, always when there was no one else physically near the environment; manoeuvring me around the desk to try and grope at my legs. I was so embarrassed and humiliated, I couldn't even talk to my closest friends about it. I mean, at that point in your life, you feel like you're cheap meat anyway, and to have someone behaving like that towards you is just totally degrading.

JOHN O'NEILL: Sandra was working at an Adelaide University, and although the man admitted harassing her and apologised, no action was taken against him.

The Equal Opportunity Commission says complaints about physical harassment are replacing complaints about smutty jokes and offensive posters. But the increased number of complaints also reflects the fact that more people are getting reported, and, more and more, the main offenders - who are men - are discovering their excuses are unacceptable.

RE-ENACTMENTS

UNIDENTIFIED: I was in love with her.

UNIDENTIFIED: I was overcome with passion.

UNIDENTIFIED: It's a compliment. I wish somebody would sexually harass me some time.

UNIDENTIFIED: It's only a joke.

UNIDENTIFIED: Anyway, women enjoy it.

UNIDENTIFIED: I was drunk at the time.

UNIDENTIFIED: I guess I lost control.

UNIDENTIFIED: You've taken all the fun out of work.

UNIDENTIFIED: It just got out of hand, I suppose.