1.7 million Australians sexually harassed in 2021-22

Media Release

An estimated 1.7 million Australian adults (8.7 per cent) experienced sexual harassment in 2021-22, according to information from the Personal Safety Survey (PSS) released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

In the PSS, sexual harassment was considered to have occurred if a person was subjected to behaviours that made them feel uncomfortable and were offensive due to their sexual nature.

Will Milne, ABS head of crime and justice statistics, said: “The survey results showed that 1.3 million women and nearly half a million men experienced sexual harassment in 2021-22.”

Women were more likely to experience sexual harassment by a male (1.2 million) than a female (110,900). Whereas men were about as likely to experience sexual harassment by a male (310,800) as by a female (250,400).

Nearly half (45 per cent) of the 1.3 million women who experienced sexual harassment in the last 12 months experienced multiple sexual harassment behaviours.

“Receiving inappropriate comments about their body or sex life was the most widely reported behaviour, experienced by 800,000 women,” said Mr Milne.

“Half a million women received an indecent text, email, or post, while 400,000 were subjected to unwanted touching or grabbing."

Women who experienced sexual harassment were more likely to experience it by a known person (63 per cent) than by a stranger (55 per cent).

“The survey found that an estimated 330,000 women were sexually harassed by someone who they had a work or professional relationship with, and 320,000 experienced it in person at their workplace.”

“We would like to thank those who took part in this survey by sharing their experiences and helping inform our understanding of sexual harassment in Australia,” Mr Milne said.

If you or anyone you know is in need or crisis, please call the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) or Lifeline (13 11 14).

Media notes

  • Sexual harassment behaviours asked about in the survey include: indecent text, email, or post; indecent exposure; inappropriate comments; unwanted touching; distributing or posting pictures or videos of the person, that were sexual in nature, without their consent; exposure to pictures, videos or materials which were sexual in nature that the person did not wish to see.
  • Work or professional relationship includes employer/manager/supervisor, co-worker, and client/patient/customer.
  • The PSS collects information from persons aged 18 years and over about the nature and extent of violence experienced since the age of 15, and their past experiences of child abuse and witnessing parental violence before the age of 15. Summary prevalence statistics from the 2021-22 Personal Safety Survey are published in Personal Safety, Australia.
  • The 2021-22 PSS was conducted between March 2021 and May 2022 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout this time, government policies were in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19, including stay-at-home orders, border control measures, limits on gatherings, and social distancing rules. The survey results should be understood and interpreted within the broader context of the wide-ranging changes to everyday life during the pandemic.
  • While the PSS collects the same information from both men and women, detailed characteristic data for men who experienced sexual harassment are not sufficiently statistically reliable to include in the commentary, however some data is available in the data downloads.
  • When reporting ABS data you must attribute the Australian Bureau of Statistics (or the ABS) as the source.
  • For media requests and interviews, contact the ABS Media Team via media@abs.gov.au (8.30am-5pm Mon-Fri).
  • Subscribe to our media release notification service to get notified of ABS media releases or publications upon their release.
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