Survey of almost 30000 people reveals the extent of sexual harassment in daily life

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The #MeToo campaign that has rocked China in the past month has not only sparked an avalanche of accusations, but also caused a series of discussions, debates, and research on sexual harassment among Chinese academics and public intellectuals. Last week KnowYourself (KY), an online community of young liberals seeking answers to social issues from the perspective of psychology, sent out a survey to its readers to investigate how frequently and to what extent sexual misconduct affects Chinese people’s lives today. Within five days, KY received 26981 answers.

“It happens all around us”

The results of the survey may serve to dent many Chinese people’s misconceptions that sexual harassment happens rarely, only among strangers, mostly in secluded places, only to women, and is caused by “attractiveness”.

Out of the 26981 participants, aged from 14 to 55, 69% said that they have been sexually harassed, and 8% said they have been raped. 76% were harassed more than once. 37% were harassed for the first time during primary school (26%) or middle school (11%). KY found out that this data is more or less at the same level as what similar surveys in the US indicate. This would turn the often heard notion that “sexual misconducts happen less frequently in China compared to the West because our culture is more ‘conservative’” into a fallacy.

74% of participants said that they were harassed by acquaintances, out of which 27% were family members/relatives or the victims’ bosses, 34% were staff in school or parents/classmates’ acquaintances.

15% of the harassment happened near or inside the victim’s home, while 13% happened near or inside a friend/relative’s home. 11% happened in schools. 67% took place in indoor or outdoor public places (in the subway/bus, hospitals, offices, malls, parking lots, etc..).

75% of women have been sexually harassed, while 21% of men have experienced the same. 99% of female victims were harassed by men, while 17% of male victims were harassed by women.

65% of the perpetrators were more than five years older than the victim, and out of those 74% were over ten years older. The most extreme age difference was 60. 26% of the perpetrators are described as having a higher social status. This is in alignment with what many researchers and psychiatrists believe. They found that sexual harassment is essentially caused by the desire to dominate. It is more likely to happen when there is a significant disparity in power, often determined by age and social resources.

“Why weren’t our voices heard”

The #MeToo campaign has empowered many victims to step out, tell their stories, and demand change. In the past, when people were harassed social conventions told them to think about their own problems and keep their mouths shut.

79% of the victims in KY’s survey did not seek help after their harassment. Most victims chose to remain silent because they felt embarrassed and did not want to mention the harassment they suffered to anyone. Some other victims were either too scared of being criticized publicly or did not realize that what had happened to them would count as sexual harassment.

Among the 21% that tried to seek help, 86% turned to their family and friends instead of professionals or the police.

“Silence is a conspiracy,” says KnowYourself at the end of their report. More surveys and research studies of this kind, utilizing facts and scientific theories, may gradually alter the ignorance of sexual crimes and the social stereotypes against women in China.