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Harassment and bullying in the theatre industry: Editor’s View

Photo: Christian Bertrand/Shutterstock
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The results of our investigation into harassment in theatre are shocking. But how do they compare to similar reports?

In terms of bullying, the figures are in line with, but worse than, the last major survey of the sector. Anne-Marie Quigg’s 2011 report Bullying in the arts recorded a 40% figure (compared to the 43% in our survey). At the time, she noted this was worse than the police and the NHS, which registered around the 30% mark. Things do not appear to have improved in the intervening years and appear to be much worse backstage.

When it comes to sexual harassment, the picture is slightly muddy. Following the Harvey Weinstein revelations, a range of polls were conducted. All had different methodologies and produced significantly different results.

A BBC Radio 5 Live survey (conducted by ComRes) found 53% of women and 20% of men had experienced sexual harassment at work or a place of study. A similar study by the Telegraph, which focused on women, found lower incidences – one in five reported experiencing sexual harassment at work.

A more focused study by Arts Professional found 48% in the arts had experienced sexual harassment, with the figure rising to 53% of those working in theatre.

Our survey returned results somewhere in the middle – 37% of women and 21% of men. However, because we offered respondents more options than yes or no (respondents could categorise as bullying, harassment, sexual harassment or sexual assault), one might expect the numbers to be slightly lower.

When it comes to sexual assault, our figures are roughly in line with the one in 10 figure the BBC Radio 5 Live survey discovered.

The survey that appears to have the most similar methodology to ours is by the British Medical Association looking at bullying and harassment in the medical profession.

This showed 22% of doctors (and 24% of all NHS staff) had experienced bullying or harassment (including sexual harassment). This is significantly lower than our survey results.

Some of the patterns in our report are similar to the BMA report: smaller differences between gender and ethnicity when it comes to bullying and harassment and more significant rises for LGBT staff and those with a disability.

One area where there should be of specific concern is the proportion of those reporting incidents of bullying or harassment. This survey’s figure is 33%, compared to 47% in the NHS. Worse, is that – of those 33% who report it – less than a third say any action was taken.

This is an area where the industry must do better.

Click here for all The Stage’s coverage of harassment in the theatre industry and advice on who to contact if you or someone you know has been a victim

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