‘It was acceptable’

Older women speak candidly about why they never reported their sexual harassers

(BBC News / YouTube)

After the BBC conducted a survey in which it found that only 15 percent of women over age 65 had reported sexual harassment, despite 39 percent saying they had experienced it, interviewers for the broadcaster spoke with a number of older women about the discrepancy — as well as their own experiences with sexual harassment.

“We had one particular surgeon who everyone knew what he was up to, it wasn’t just me … He would just put his hands under your skirt … and you couldn’t say anything because of the hierarchy,” a woman identified as Sandy told the BBC. Asked about why she didn’t report him, she said that doing so could have ended her career before it even started.

“Nobody would have believed you — he was above the law,” she recalled. “If you made trouble you would have been out on your ear. Your training would have been finished and you wouldn’t have a career.”

Another woman, Maureen, said that sexual harassment used to be considered just another part of life.

“I think the older generation were more reluctant because it was in a different context,” she explained. “That was then. It was acceptable. People say that was acceptable.”

Among the women surveyed by the BBC, more than one in five said they had experienced unwanted touching while at work — while one in seven women said they had experienced sexual assault at work. Despite the grim statistics, a woman going by the name of Meg expressed hope that the ongoing discussion of sexual harassment and assault in the wake of the #MeToo moment could change things for future generations.

“I think the behavior will still be around, but what will change is the ability of women to feel confident to speak,” she said. “It’s not going to happen overnight, but I think we are at a stage where we’re encouraging our young girls to protect themselves and look after their bodies.”

Watch the interviews below.

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