Harassment and bullying in the theatre industry special report: Harassment
Following the wide-ranging and ongoing allegations of harassment and abuse in the entertainment industry and beyond, The Stage carried out a survey to determine the scale to which this has affected, and continues to affect, theatre and the performing arts professionals.
It was also intended to investigate whether there were any parts of the industry particularly hard hit.
It was distributed to a database of registered users in November 2017 and was carried out over a 10-day period by 1,755 people with 1,050 people completing all key questions.
It collected the data of those who work, have previously worked, or are training to work in theatre.
Disabled workers, creative team members and women at highest risk
Behaviour that is defined as harassment is often similar to bullying – exclusion or victimisation, undermining competent workers by constant criticism, intimidation and humiliation.
What makes harassment illegal?
While bullying is not against the law harassment is, because it occurs when unwanted behaviour is related to one of the following: age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.
Of those answering the question on workplace harassment and bullying, 20% said they had specifically experienced harassment.
Harassment was highest among respondents in creative roles such as directors and designers.
Of disabled respondents, 40% said they had suffered harassment. This is a lower proportion than the 68% that had experienced bullying, but is still well above the overall average.
The anecdotal responses to the survey uncovered stories of persistent and long-term harassment around individuals’ disability as being a particular area of concern, with reports of inappropriate behaviour, gossip and rumours relating to a respondent’s mental and physical disabilities.
A disabled performer said they had been regularly told their disability would mean they would never get work in a certain area, and that audiences would find it “too depressing” to see disabled people on stage.
The survey also recorded stories of harassment related to respondents’ gender, ethnicity, age and sexuality.
Female backstage workers said harassment was particularly prevalent in their industry.
One respondent said: “I have been laughed at and undermined countless times during my technical and backstage work, by men who didn’t believe I was strong enough or knew enough technically.”
The survey showed harassment was more likely to occur when a person was working as a staff member at an organisation, than if they were freelance.
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