MORE than half of all British women have experienced sexual harassment at work or at their place of study, a survey has suggested.

The ComRes study, commissioned by BBC Radio 5 live, found that of the adults asked, 53 per cent of women said they experienced some form of harassment – ranging from inappropriate jokes to physical assault.

The survey, of 2,031 men and women over 18, also showed that women were more likely than men to be targeted by a boss or senior manager – 30 per cent compared with 12 per cent – and one in 10 women said their experiences led to them leaving their job or place of study.

Of both men and women who said they experienced
harassment, 27 per cent said it was in the form of inappropriate jokes, 15 per cent said they suffered inappropriate touching, and 13 per cent were subject to verbal harassment.

The figures come in the wake of a torrent of allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, who is facing claims of rape and sexual assault dating back to the 1980s.

Weinstein has vehemently denied the allegations, but said he recognised some of his past behaviour “caused a lot of pain”.

The allegations surrounding Weinstein have led thousands of women to post messages on
social media in an attempt to expose the wider problem of sexual assault.

Actress Alyssa Milano wrote on Twitter: “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.”

The US star wrote: “Suggested by a friend: ‘If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.’”

Thousands of people had replied to the tweet by Monday morning, with the phrase “me too” trending and the words also posted on Facebook and Instagram.

The survey indicated over two thirds (67 per cent) of all those who had been harassed said they did not report it.

Men were considerably less likely to report experiences of sexual harassment, the survey suggested, with only 21 per cent saying they felt able to tell anyone.

One Flintshire woman, who spoke to the Leader but did not want to be identified, said sexual harassment was often dismissed as a joke. 

She said: “I’d say it’s very common, I’ve encountered it and witnessed it in more than one workplace.

“It’s often disguised as humour and implied that you don’t have a sense humour if you don’t laugh it off.”

Another said: “I've experienced harassment in the workplace firsthand. The people I worked with treated it as a joke.

“I think because he was very
high up.

“They rallied around to protect him when I tried to speak out.”

Kiran Daurka, an employment and discrimination solicitor at law firm Leigh Day, says bringing harassment claims can be difficult as they often involve one person's word against another.

“The person bringing the complaint is also required to prove that the conduct was ‘unwanted’, when in most cases the main defence will be that it was mutual, if they admit it happened at all,” she says.

“In addition, the person who has been the victim of harassment must be prepared to bring the legal claim within three months of the offence, when many do not feel able to talk about the situation.

“They may also be employed in the company where the harassment occurred, creating a further impediment to seeking redress.”

Women MPs have revealed shocking accounts of being subject to sexual assaults and harassment as they aim to encourage victims of abuse to speak out.

Labour’s Mary Creagh said she was sexually assaulted by about a dozen boys during a school playground game of kiss-chase.

Jess Phillips told how she had been left “paralysed by fear” when she woke up at a party to find her boss undoing her belt and trying to get into her trousers.

Conservative Theresa Villiers said she had to “fend off some groping hands” during the early days of her political career.

For Hannah Blythyn AM, Welsh Labour Assembly Member for Delyn, the experiences of her Westminster counterparts ring true.

“In many instances this is about the abuse of power, an abuse of power that often results in people feeling unable or reluctant to report at the time,” she said.

“Unfortunately, I am sure the many experiences being shared recently are all too familiar with countless women across communities and the country.

“I remember being at event in London as a young professional in my early twenties and being introduced for the first time to a senior, much older figure.

“His first words to me were, ‘oh if I was 20 years younger…’.”

She adds: “The stories now being disclosed are serving to show how commonplace incidents of sexual harassment are – it’s important that they also serve to challenge the acceptability of such behaviour.

“Those of us with a more prominent platform to do this have a duty to do so in order to provide a voice for those less able to speak out.”