Harassment

Little research has been conducted on harassment within the Norwegian research sector. Is psychologist Ståle Einarsen right when he says that working life has become more concerned with increasing satisfaction for the many than with seeing the problems of the few?

Both women and men commit harassment. Norwegian research shows that one of six employees of both genders has been subjected to acts that could be perceived as harassment in the workplace (National Institute of Occupational Health). There is no reason to believe that academia is any different.

On these pages we focus primarily on sexual harassment.

What is harassment?

“Harassment” generally refers to repetitive, prolonged or serious acts or statements that have the effect of being offensive, frightening, hostile or degrading.

Individual incidents of unwanted behaviour may be regarded as unlawful harassment as well. It is important to note that the behaviour must be unwanted and troublesome. This is subjective, and may be difficult to assess objectively. The subjective experience of the aggrieved party is given great weight. 

Types of harassment

  • Sexual harassment.
  • Harassment on the basis of gender, disability, ethnicity, age, political views, member of a trade union, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, religion and beliefs.

Harassment can manifest in various ways

  • Physical: touching, assault, attempted rape.
  • Verbal: bothersome comments about a person’s body, clothes and private life, jokes with a sexual undercurrent.
  • Non-verbal: whistling and physical gestures with a sexual undercurrent, bothersome glances, exposure, showing of pictures or objects with a sexual undercurrent.

Harassment – a difficult concept

It may be difficult to distinguish between harassment on the basis of gender and sexual harassment. However, when harassment has a large sexual component, it constitutes sexual harassment. Harassment is a way to exercise power, and must be understood in light of power and inequality structures such as gender, age, class and ethnicity (see the white paper on equality from the Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion).

When is it sexual harassment?
A challenge for researchers who study sexual harassment is that the acts which can legally be defined as such are not always called sexual harassment by the victim. Therefore, some researchers ask about the person’s behaviour or experience, rather than about “sexual harassment”, when they research the subject.

Who reports sexual harassment?
Based on research in the field, more women than men report sexual harassment. Younger women are the most at risk.

Criticism
A common criticism is that much of the research literature does not distinguish between bullying and sexual harassment.

Little research has been conducted on sexual harassment in academia.

The KIF Committee’s work with harassment

The task of the Committee for Gender Balance and Diversity in Research (the KIF Committee) is to promote gender balance and ethnic diversity in the higher education sector and research institute sector.

Working environments with uneven gender balance are more susceptible to direct and indirect discrimination. Working to combat sexual harassment in academia is also a way of promoting gender equality for students and researchers.

In 2013, the KIF Committee organized the seminar Sexual harassment – the problem that does (not) exist?

On these pages we have compiled information about sexual harassment, and in the list below you can read our news articles on the topic.

More about harassment

A study from 2012 conducted by the National Institute of Occupational Health and the University of Bergen shows that one of six employees of both genders has been subjected to some form of harassment in the workplace.

SEE: