Sexual harassment and bullying rife in culture sector: report

Reports about sexual harassment and abuse of power in the media and culture sector are increasing but they are only ‘the tip of the iceberg’, the culture council Raad voor Cultuur has said in a new report.

The council said that while prevention is key, conditions which exacerbate an unsafe working environment, such as the lack of fixed contracts for the many freelance workers in the culture sector, should also be tackled.

Recommendations include ‘work floor discussion’ about issues to do with unequal relationships, people’s own behaviour and boundaries. That should lead to guidelines about ‘what is and what is not acceptable in certain situations’, the council wrote.

Apart from sexual abuse the council also looked at bullying, intimidation, racism and gender discrimination.

The number of complaints from people working in the culture sector has shown a sharp rise, from 57 in 2021 to 157 this year. ‘They went up around the time of the scandal surrounding The Voice of Holland‘, said Jeanette Jager of the Mores helpline.

Jager said the reports – ranging from touching and offensive jokes to rape – were only ‘the tip of the iceberg’. ‘It takes a lot of courage to report this sort of thing. There is a lot of fear and shame attached. Some reports are about something that took place 20  years ago,’ jager said.

Casting couch

The council said the culture sector is particularly open to this kind of abuse because of ‘a limited number of jobs for artists’. The casting directors, teachers, curators and artistic leaders are the ones with the power to select the candidates and their actions may ‘consciously or subconsciously be based on prejudice and stereotyping, resulting in an unsafe working climate’, it stated.

The council also said that physical contact in many cultural sector professions is ‘part and parcel’ of the job and that the culture sector is ‘ strongly focused on result’.

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