Britons unclear on sexual harassment – Sky poll

More than half of Britons are confused about what constitutes sexual harassment, an exclusive Sky Data poll reveals.

Some 51% of respondents say they are unsure where the line is between flirting and sexual harassment, with 44% saying they are clear on the issue.

Those aged 55 and over are more confused on the subject, with just 36% saying they are certain where the line is.

The findings come in the wake of the Hollywood and Westminster scandals, which have prompted debate on what is and isn't appropriate behaviour.

The Sky Data poll also reveals:

  • 58% of those aged between 18 and 34 are clear on what constitutes sexual harassment – 38% are confused
  • Some 46% say the issue has become more confusing over the last 20 years, while 29% believe it now clearer
  • 59% of Britons believe sexual harassment is a serious issue in British politics – more women (63%) say it is a problem than men (54%)

For a clear definition on the issue, Sky News spoke to Professor Jennifer Brown, who has studied harassment for 25 years.

She said: "Definitions of sexual harassment are unwanted behaviour, unreciprocated behaviour (which) causes distress.

"If the recipient feels uncomfortable, or they don't like it, they signal that they don't like it and it persists. Then it can be harassment."

Professor Brown, from the London School of Economics and Political Science, added that sexual harassment is complicated.

She said: "It depends on the who, what, when and where – so who's doing it, to whom and what circumstances.

"What has changed is there are new channels for it, so when I first looked at it, 20-odd years ago, there was no mobile phones, so sexting, the sending of explicit texts, the sending of explicit emails, these sort of things didn't happen.

"So there's a degree of morphing, where the behaviour adapts to modern circumstances."

:: Sky Data interviewed a nationally representative sample of 1,002 Sky customers online between 7 and 9 November. Data are weighted to the profile of the population.

For full Sky Data tables click here

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