The Student Laywer’s Guide to Sexual Harassment and Abuse

The Student Laywer’s Guide to Sexual Harassment and Abuse



Sexual harassment and abuse is an issue which is growing in prominence within mainstream society. Throughout 2018, many campaigns and cases have hit the headlines causing shock waves within Hollywood and the workplace alike. This increased attention is transforming the culture around sexual harassment, creating an environment that supports victims and provides them with a platform to raise their cases. High profile cases are not only changing the exposed harassment culture of Hollywood, but they are filtering through to the workplace. Employers are now amending their sexual harassment policies and enforcing them more thoroughly. Here have analysed the developing perspectives around sexual assault and the important role those in the legal profession have to play.


The Rise in Recorded Sexual Offences

In March 2017, The Office of National Statistics (ONS) wrote that approximately 12.1% of adults aged 16-59 have been subjected to some form of unwanted sexual harassment since they turned 16. This equates to about 4 million victims. In addition, in the year leading up to March 2017, ONS estimate that there were 646,000 victims of a form of assault. This includes rape and any attempted assaults among others, and equates to 2% of those aged 16-59.

This is a staggering estimation of sexual assaults in England and Wales alone. This report indicated that the amount of recorded sexual assaults by law enforcement is now at its highest since the National Crime Recording Standard began in 2002. This figure subsequently increased in a follow up report in September 2017. Yet despite this emerging upward trend, rape cases specifically that were referred by the Police are not following suit. This has actually decreased, according to recent reports.


Within the workplace, the TUC reported in 2016 that, from the women surveyed, 52% had experienced some form of sexual harassment. In addition to this, 79% of these women did not tell a manager or superior about this encounter. This shows the pervasiveness of sexual harassment within the workplace. It also demonstrates the extent to which this needs to be combated.

It is difficult to gauge whether these statistics indicate a rise in overall assaults during this period of time, or whether the developments in the culture around harassment have meant that individuals feel more comfortable to voice their experiences. Regardless of this, it is important that actions are taken to try and reduce these numbers, ensuring the safety of everyone.


Cultural Revolution

It would not be an exaggeration to begin to class this current period as a cultural revolution with regards to the stamping out of sexual assault. Many famous faces have lent their talents to prominent campaigns and have been seen to openly oppose figures who have been accused of sexual misconduct, such as Harvey Weinstein. The Time’s Up and MeToo Movements have continued to gain traction throughout 2017 and 2018. This was illustrated by the worldwide recognition granted by being awarded the prestigious Time Person of the Year Award under the title ‘The Silence Breakers’. Additionally, the Time’s Up Legal Defence Fund has been influential in supporting those coming forward, especially those from minority or impoverished backgrounds.


The Golden Globes protest in January 2018 was very highly documented, as a whole host of celebrities wore black as a sign of solidarity with those affected by sexual assault. Not only did this include women, but men did too, including James and Dave Franco and William H. Macy. This is because the movement incorporates the stories of assault of men who have bravely come forward despite the stigma, such as Terry Crews. This shows the society-wide support this movement has gained.

The movement has also developed within the UK specifically. This movement has allowed for unacceptable incidents to be called out within the public eye. For example, allegations were made against both Michael Fallon and Damien Green for their past sexual misconduct. This resulted in both of them leaving the cabinet due to the public backlash. In addition, The President’s Club, which has an all-male membership, was discovered to be discriminatory towards women with incidents of inappropriate language, touching and advances being reported by women who worked there as hostesses. However, this exposure is not the end of the road as these incidents are still occurring. It is vital that measures are put it place, and enforced, that prevent both women, men and children from being subject to sexual abuse.


What can the Legal Industry do?

Now that calling out sexual harassment is becoming increasingly mainstream, normal individuals who have been abused, both in the past or in the present, are now able to come forward with much more confidence that their experiences will be acknowledged and they will be supported in how to progress.

Rape Crisis England and Wales saw an increase of 17% of people using their services between 2017-18 in comparison to the previous year, 2016-17. A similar pattern occurred in the US with a climb of 23% in enquiries to the Rape, Abuse and Insest National Network after the exposure of the sexual assault scandals within Hollywood in the last part of 2017. This is in comparison to the same time frame within 2016. As reported cases are increasing as well as those who are accessing rape crisis services, legal experts should be ready to support those who want to pursue their case. The tide is changing concerning sexual harassment. Some backlash still remains, however, so it is vital that those who bravely come forward are provided with the correct legal aid is provided.


It is quite possible that in 2019 sexual harassment cases will feature very prominently if current trends continue. This is why it is crucial all legal experts are equipped with the correct tools to deal with these cases efficiently. This period can be emotionally testing for the victim, their family and the legal team. It is very disheartening to see the vast amount of cases that are being brought to the surface. It is, however, encouraging that individuals now feel like they are able to bring these cases to the fore of society and have increased awareness of the process required to appeal for compensation. You can calculate how much compensation you can claim for sexual abuse or harassment by visiting and using their free online calculator.

This highlights the pivotal role that the legal industry play within this movement. They will be key to continuing this trend through reminding the individual they have done the correct thing in sharing their case. If those in the legal profession support individuals in a compassionate but effective way, they could hold the key to ensuring these movements continue in 2019 and beyond. The goal: to remove sexual harassment indefinitely.

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