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Christmas parties not so jolly for women

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Parisa Wade
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« on: December 16, 2007, 02:21:38 am »

Christmas parties not so jolly for women
Eamonn Duff
December 16, 2007

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SYDNEY Christmas parties are getting out of control and women are the victims.

Counsellors have been shocked by an increase in calls as the festive season reaches its peak. This month, three people have called the NSW **** Crisis Centre hotline every 48 hours to detail **** and indecent assaults at Christmas parties and end-of-year drink functions.

"It's happening in factories, offices, law firms, in banks and in high-profile companies we all know," said NSW **** Crisis Centre manager Karen Willis.

"It's not just occurring at parties. Many employees get asked to stay back late this time of year to do overtime. Opportunistic bosses in particular are exploiting this situation." Complaints were rolling in "much earlier and at a higher rate" compared to last year, she said.

Last Christmas, the centre dealt with at least four employment-related sexual assaults each week, 72percent of which were committed by senior managers and company owners. Only 11percent of those victims later lodged formal complaints with police. Ms Willis said: "One of the common concerns relayed to counsellors by victims is that if they take it further, they'll get the sack."

The Sun-Herald has obtained edited transcripts of complaints made to the 24-hour hotline in the past few days and last Christmas.

A 37-year-old Sydney woman told last week how her boss "grabbed her" and tried to push her to the floor after an on-site Christmas party.

"He called me shocking names and said I had teased him all year. I can still feel his hands. I cannot talk to anyone; if my husband finds out, he'll kill him," she said.

Another woman went out for drinks with colleagues and returned to the office to pick up Christmas presents, only to discover she had been followed back by her boss who assaulted her.

"I worked with him for six years. I know his wife and kids," the woman said.

A 28-year-old woman told how a manager who lives in premises off the office "pulled me into his room and threw me on the bed. He then told some of the men who worked on the floor that I had slept with him for money and that they should 'have a go"'.

Ms Willis said: "It's common for offenders to cover their tracks after the event by going out of their way to degrade the victim."

Improved confidence in the legal system was prompting women to come forward, but Ms Willis said reported cases were the "tip of the iceberg".

"Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, employers have a responsibility to ensure the safety of all their employees," she said. "If they don't do the right thing, they can be held liable under the Workers' Compensation Act."

Police Minister David Campbell urged women who had been assaulted to come forward. "Any woman who has been the victim of sexual assault or intimidation should report any such incident to police immediately," he said.

In the last financial year, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission recorded a 12 per cent jump in the number of sexual harassment complaints relating to the workplace.

In the Federal Government's State Of The Service report released last week, it was revealed that 54per cent of Australian public service workers who had observed workplace harassment and bullying failed to report it.

The NSW **** Crisis Centre can be contacted on (02)98196565 or 1800424017.

eduff@sunherald.com.au

http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2007/12/15/1197568329551.html
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