" Practicing self-care, knowing your options, and understanding the economic impact of workplace sexual harassment – new learnings from our Lived Experience Advisory Panel – Circle Green Community Legal

In September, we convened another meeting with our Lived Experience Advisory Panel (LEAP).

Circle Green’s Lived Experience Advisory Panel are a group of consultants with diverse lived experience of workplace sexual harassment who guide the work of our Workplace Respect Project. Convening approximately every 3 months, the LEAP provide unique, informative insights into our service delivery and the development of our resources. Following each LEAP meeting, we compile a blog sharing key learnings and themes from each session.

In our most recent meeting, we were joined by 4 of our 7 members to provide key project updates and receive feedback on Project resources currently in development. Our members shared their experience and knowledge on a range of topics, with key learnings such as:

Workplace sexual harassment is a form of economic abuse and can cast a long shadow – particularly on women’s lives

“The issues, for me, are lifelong” – LEAP member

The 2022 Time for Respect report revealed that 51% of workers reported negative impacts related to their employment, career or work, while 62% experienced decreased job satisfaction and 50% experienced decreased productivity at work as a result of being targeted by workplace sexual harassment. Women were reportedly more likely to be negatively impacted by harassment.

Our LEAP highlighted that their experiences of workplace sexual harassment had led to them leaving their job or taking extended unpaid leave from their job, often dealing significant financial burden as a result. Other costs, such as psychology fees or legal costs, can further exacerbate this burden.

As a result, we discussed how workplace sexual harassment can be considered a form of economic violence. Economic violence is referred to as behaviour which causes economic harm to an individual and is more commonly associated with forms of violence such as family and domestic violence.

Workplace sexual harassment can ultimately have a direct or indirect, severe long-term impact on the person targeted’s economic wellbeing, leading to loss of earnings and experiences of financial disadvantage – by using powerful terminology like ‘economic violence’ to frame the negative impact of workplace sexual harassment, we can work to emphasise it.

Self-care is a process, not a discrete activity

“I might feel quite empowered on one day to do something like go for a walk in nature, then the next day make a report – it’s not that you just ‘get one done’ and then you work on sorting the rest out.” – LEAP member

Being targeted by workplace sexual harassment can be a traumatic experience, with potentially long-lasting impacts on a person’s mental health and feelings of personal safety.

As we highlighted in a blog from a previous meeting, healing from workplace sexual harassment can be a lengthy journey and is unique to an individual based on factors like the nature and frequency of the sexual harassment they experienced. In our most recent LEAP meeting, we also discussed how practicing self-care and seeking support, an important part of the healing journey and for many people the first step they take, is also non-linear, and can be complex – often, it looks completely different for everyone.

The ability to make informed decisions is a crucial component to feeling empowered

“So much of this is negotiating unfamiliar territory… emotionally, legally, psychologically.” – LEAP member

“When you’ve been through something that makes you feel powerless, it’s really hard to have the energy to believe you have that worth, or that someone will care to hear your story. I didn’t realise there were other options.” – LEAP member

Knowing that there are both formal and informal options for seeking support and reporting following an incident of workplace sexual harassment is important.

Many people who have been targeted by workplace sexual harassment, especially people who face marginalisation and disadvantage, often do not have information about their options and are unable to make an informed decision about their next steps. We are dedicated to continuing to develop resources that empower all workers to know and explore their options for seeking additional support or making a report, and to provide legal assistance services to help people to understand and navigate their reporting options.

We are seeking Lived Experience Advisory Panelists on an ongoing basis, with a particular interest in representing those groups most often targeted by and most severely impacted by workplace sexual harassment. If you’re interested in learning more about applying for our Lived Experience Advisory Panel, contact Rachel Jones (Workplace Respect Project Officer) for more information: rachel.jones@circlegreen.org.au.