Myth Busting Sexual Harassment at Work

Topics Gender
Myth busting sexual harassment at work

According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, in 2018, 23% of women and 16% of men have experienced sexual harassment at work in Australia.

Sexual harassment has been unlawful in Australian workplaces since 1984 and so for well over three decades, employers have invested in policies, awareness raising, and training. But it remains as prevalent as ever.

DCA members are at the forefront of responding to and preventing sexual harassment in organisations across Australia. We know from their experience that a critical stumbling block for organisations are the myths about what sexual harassment is, its impact on organisations and individuals, and what we can do stop it.

To assist DCA has produced a myth-buster which challenges the common misconceptions which have allowed these sexual harassment statistics to rise despite the #MeToo movement.  The guide provides detailed frameworks for action on each of the myths listed below so that employees and workplaces can stand up for safety and respect at work.

Top myths and facts on sexual harassment

  • Myth #1: People who get offended just can’t take a joke or are too sensitive
    Reality: It’s not funny if it’s at someone else’s expense
  • Myth #2: It’s just boys being boys
    Reality: Actually, boys are better than that

  • Myth #3: You should take it as a compliment
    Reality: If it’s not welcome, it’s not a compliment
  • Myth #4: But they’re one of our top performers...
    Reality: Lack of action now will cost more down the track
  • Myth #5: It’s all gone too far – we can’t say or do anything these days!
    Reality: If it’s respectful and safe, then it’s OK!
  • Myth #6: I don’t want to get involved – it’s none of my business
    Reality: It’s everybody’s business – the standard we walk past is the standard we accept
  • Myth #7: It only happens to [straight-cis] women
    Reality: It happens to people of all genders and sexual orientations
  • Myth #8: It’s mainly just senior men taking advantage of their secretaries
    Reality: Sexual harassment is about power. And power at work isn’t just about seniority.


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The suggested citation for this report is:

Diversity Council Australia, Myth Busting Sexual Harassment at Work, Sydney, Diversity Council Australia, 2019.

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DCA members can download the Sexual Harassment Myths Quiz from the section below.

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