Vague sexual harassment concepts leave Belgian medical industry lacking
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Vague sexual harassment concepts leave Belgian medical industry lacking

Credit: Belga

Over the past three years, around 15% of medical staff has faced sexual abuse or misconduct, clearly revealed the first survey on sexual harassment in the Belgian medical world, published on Thursday.

37% of respondents say they have experienced inappropriate behaviour without calling it harassment, according to a poll organized by Mediquality, an online information platform for health professionals in the Benelux.

In spite of the impact of the #MeToo movement or the #balancetonporc hashtag, the survey reveals that, in the medical community as elsewhere, the concept of harassment is still pretty vague. About 20% of respondents reported behaviour from their patients that was “out of context”, without regarding it as sexual harassment. 

The most commonly reported behaviours included asking for a date (16%), attempted physical contact (touching, stroking, rubbing, 14%), clear manifestations of a sexual nature (8%), mailing of letters or pictures (3%), or solicitation for sex (3%). 

“We must not omit the cases of sexual harassment between colleagues, which are also a reality. Among our respondents, 15 physicians, mostly women, said they were victims to unsolicited sexual conduct by a colleague,” Mediquality Benelux Medical Director Dr. Eric Mertens said. In most cases, the author was not denounced. 

The results of this survey could therefore be “the visible part of the iceberg,” Mertens suggested, who dared to compare the situation with sexual abuse among the clergy. “Before, nobody dared speak of paedophile priests.” 

The survey also reveals that only 15% of respondents would know the procedure in cases of sexual harassment, while only 3% are aware of the existence of mandatory training on the subject. 

“This reveals a kind of omerta: the victims do not know where to turn, who to talk to,” Mertens commented, who hopes that this survey will loosen tongues. 

The Brussels Times

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