Canadians’ perceptions of sexual harassment not aligned with reality

By David Boughton

Canadians appear unaware of how often women face sexual harassment, with a new Abacus Data poll showing a significant gap between perception and reality[1]http://abacusdata.ca/sexual-harassment-of-women-is-widespread-in-canada/.

The poll also shows a disparity between the opinions of men and women as well as between women of different age groups.

More than half of women polled have experienced unwanted sexual pressure, with 12% saying it occurs often or very often. This is true regardless of age, as over 50% of women in all age groups report experience with harassment.

When asked about the frequency of sexual harassment, Canadians’ perceptions didn’t match up with these numbers.

Overall, respondents believe about 40% of women have been harassed, contrasting the 53% of women who reported at least one experience.

In all questions, men believe sexual harassment is less common than women do. They think about 33% of women have been harassed, compared to women, who believe the number is 47%. Likewise, men believe about 17% of other men are the type to harass, while women think it is closer to 26%.

Perceptions also vary among women of different ages. The 18-29 group believes 55% of women have experienced sexual harassment. This number drops age groups increase, ending with the 60+ group believing the affected number is 39%.

More than half of the respondents believe sexual harassment occurs in the workplace, and 12% say it is quite common. Men and women are more closely aligned in this area, considering over 50% of both groups believe workplace harassment exists.

A large majority believe harassers face no consequences for their actions. This number is higher for women, at 77% compared to 63% for men. For women, the idea that harassers face no consequences increases with age. It starts at 73% for 18-29 and rises to 84% for women over 60.

The data provides insight into the perception of sexual harassment in Canada, but it leaves some questions.

First, why do Canadians believe it occurs less frequently than the data shows?

Second, why do men and women still have such different perceptions of frequency?

And finally, why do women’s opinions vary so much when controlled for age?

As sexual harassment continues to make headlines around the world, hopefully Canadians begin to see how common sexual harassment is.

References   [ + ]

1. http://abacusdata.ca/sexual-harassment-of-women-is-widespread-in-canada/

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