According to research conducted around the country by the group ActionAid Hellas, an astounding 85% of Greek women say they have faced sexual harassment at work.
Greek women in the tourism and service industries, two of the country’s largest areas of employment, are at increased risk, with 22% of respondents stating that they have been victims of actual sexual assault or rape while at work, compared to 13% among the general population.
One in ten women who participated in the research claim to have been victims of attempted assaults, while one in five report that they had been sexually blackmailed.
The research was conducted by ActionAid Hellas in two different stages. The first, which took place in July of 2020, surveyed 1,001 Greek women in a wide variety of business sectors about their experiences with sexual harassment in the workplace.
The second, which was focused only on women working in the tourism or service industries, was conducted with 376 participants in July and September of 2020.
Only 6% of Greek women who say they faced sexual harassment in their workplace reported the incident to authorities.
Often, women hesitate to report incidents of sexual harassment in fear of retribution or loss of employment, something that could be disastrous for an employee in a country with a notoriously struggling economy and lack of employment options.
Additionally, and most disturbingly, victims fear that their claims will not be taken seriously if they report them to the authorities.
Notably, the research found that most of the respondents who claimed to have been victims of sexual assault were younger and tended to have less work experience, who may be seen as easier victims than their older, more experienced counterparts.
The United Nations defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature,” noting that often sexual harassment comes as a term of employment, or is used to make decisions about someone’s employment, either explicitly or implicitly.
The UN goes on to state that these behaviors often lead to a hostile, threatening environment for the victim that discourages them from speaking out.
Sexual harassment comes in many forms, ranging from unwanted, inappropriate sexual comments to physical attacks.
Three in four Greek women who responded to the survey stated that they had experienced unwanted physical touching in the workplace. Over four in ten women claimed to have been victims of persistent, unwelcome pressure to go out on dates, stalking, or to have received unwanted sexual messages.
Just 43% of respondents stated that they were fully aware of their own rights under the law in terms of sexual harassment in the workplace.
ActionAid Hellas suggests that fighting against sexual harassment requires not only increased awareness about the prevalence of the disturbing phenomenon, but also a shift in cultural attitudes toward women in the workplace in general.