The clothes we wear don’t cause sexual harassment and abuse

When will we get the message? It’s not the clothes that our (mainly) women and girls are wearing that causes sexual harassment and sexual abuse and sexual assault.

Just a few weeks ago there was lots of chatter around Safe Work Australia’s new guidelines to help reduce sexual harassment; one line of which suggests that employers avoid sexualised uniforms.

Now, we hear that a school in Sydney has suggested that girls shouldn’t compromise their male teacher’s employment by wearing stringy, skimpy or revealing clothes.

In both of these examples, we seem to still be missing the point.

If our solution to sorting out our increasing problem in the workplace, is to focus on the clothes that the victims are wearing, we are looking in the wrong direction.

This is what we know about sexual harassment.

  • It’s about the workplace culture that enables it.
  • It’s about the leadership that either turns a blind eye, or participates in it.
  • It’s about the by standers whose stomachs churn when they hear and see what is going on, but don’t feel safe to say or do anything.
  • It’s about reporting processes that don’t work. And functions such as HR that don’t have the trust of the broader employee poputlation that something is going to be done about their complaint.
  • It’s the little snide, ‘just a joke’ comments that remain unchecked and so grow and grow.

It’s all these things.

It’s not the clothes.


If you’re a leader in any way in any organisation – looking at the culture; what the leaders do or don’t do; whether people feel safe to either say something about things they see and hear. Those things. Look at those things. Address those things.

If you’re a team member – look at the same. Agitate for change. It’s the only way things are going to get better.

If you’re someone who is experiencing sexual harassment – talk to someone who can help. And if that’s not within your organisation – look externally for support.

It’s not the clothes.



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