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Obstacles for identifying sexual harassment in academia: Insights from five European countries
Malmö University, Faculty of Health and Society (HS), Department of Criminology (KR).ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3124-8204
Department of Sociology, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb, Zagreb, Croatia.
Research Department at Rutgers, Utrecht, The Netherlands.
Department of Sociology, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb, Zagreb, Croatia.
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2023 (English)In: Sexuality Research & Social Policy, ISSN 1868-9884, E-ISSN 1553-6610Article in journal (Refereed) Epub ahead of print
Abstract [en]

Introduction

Experiences of sexual harassment are common among university students. At the same time, research shows that victims and bystanders find it difficult to determine when an incident meets the criteria for sexual harassment. The aim of this study therefore was to obtain a richer and deeper understanding of the obstacles that university students encounter in identifying sexual harassment in the academic environment.

Methods

Individual interviews and focus groups were conducted with a total of 85 students at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral level in five European countries (Belgium, Croatia, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden) between 2020 and 2022. Thematic analysis was used to identify obstacles in identifying sexual harassment.

Results

The obstacles described by participants were found to fall into three main categories: (1) preconceived notions about what constitutes sexual harassment that did not necessarily concur with lived experiences, (2) navigating an often blurred or ambiguous line between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour and (3) the existence of competing interpretations of what had happened.

Conclusions

The results point to a gap between the participants’ lived experiences and their interpretations of them, which include difficulties positioning their experiences within their theoretical understanding of sexual harassment.

Policy Implications

Measures to counteract the obstacles faced by victims and bystanders in identifying sexual harassment in academia should target this cognitive gap, for instance by addressing the stereotypes that characterize preconceived notions about sexual harassment.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Springer, 2023.
Keywords [en]
Sexual harassment, sexual harassment in academia, prevention of sexual harassment
National Category
Social Work Law and Society Occupational Health and Environmental Health
Research subject
Criminology; Arbete och organisation
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:mau:diva-62776DOI: 10.1007/s13178-023-00870-8ISI: 001070338100001Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85171785846OAI: oai:DiVA.org:mau-62776DiVA, id: diva2:1799378
Projects
"Plötsligt kom där en hand" – erfarenheter och reflektioner om sexuella trakasserier bland studenter och doktorander
Funder
The Crafoord FoundationAvailable from: 2023-09-22 Created: 2023-09-22 Last updated: 2023-11-07Bibliographically approved

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Hagerlid, MikaLöfgren, Charlotta

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