A behavioural science approach to combatting sexual harassment


16th March 2023

Walnut Unlimited

What would you do if you saw someone being sexually harassed in public? Intervene? Offer support? Or do nothing?

Many of us like to feel that we would not be passive bystanders but, our research shows, not only is it not always clear when someone is being sexually harassed, but also there is a hidden barrier known as the bystander effect that stops people from intervening and supporting victims.

According to research from the Government Equalities Office, conducted in 2020, nearly three quarters (72%) of the UK population have experienced at least one form of sexual harassment in their lifetime, while two in five (43%) had experienced at least one sexual harassment behaviour in the last 12 months.

Through exploring wider attitudes towards sexual harassment, our research shows that tailoring communications is key. It is easy to assume that all people from the same perspective, but our segmentation highlights the nuanced picture of understanding and propensity to intervene among the population. This gives us a starting point to start a conversation about how to create communities in which all individuals are willing and able to intervene in situations of transgressive behaviour in a public place.

Because this is a complex and nuanced issue, we’ve conducted an extensive research project to start to understand what can be done. We started with an in depth Behavioural Science audit which comprised a literature review and a review of communications campaigns to understand the biases and heuristics at play. Using this insight, and maintaining a Behavioural Science approach throughout, we designed a programme of primary research: we conducted qualitative research in the form of in depth interviews and two quantitative surveys.

These findings by Walnut Unlimited explores the landscape of gender equality in sport in the UK. Read our thought piece below or reach out to us on info@walnutunlimited.com to learn more.

Written by Walnut Unlimited Email Walnut Unlimited

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