Actress and activist Emma Watson has helped launch a free hotline offering legal advice to people in England and Wales who have experienced sexual harassment at work.
The hotline is funded by the Time’s Up UK Justice and Equality fund, which is managed by nonprofit Rosa (the UK Fund for Women and Girls). Watson donated £1 million to the fund last year.
Callers will be connected with a member of the nonprofit Rights of Women, which works to educate women of their legal rights and provide legal support to women who have experienced violence.
The hotline will allow women to learn more about what legally constitutes sexual harassment, how to bring forth a complaint, or how to deal with non-disclosure agreements that may seek to keep them from speaking out, the BBC reported. And legal specialists will be able to advise them of their rights and the best course of action, at no cost.
"Understanding what your rights are, how you can assert them, and the choices you have if you've experienced harassment is such a vital part of creating safe workplaces for everyone, and this advice line is such a huge development in ensuring that all women are supported, wherever we work," Watson said in a statement.
The hotline is reportedly the first of its kind in the UK, which Watson said is “completely staggering” considering the scale of workplace sexual harassment in the UK and beyond.
We're proud to launch our new free legal advice line for women in England & Wales who have been sexually harassed at work, funded by @TIMESUPUK@RosaForWomen and backed by @EmmaWatson— Rights of Women (@rightsofwomen) August 5, 2019
The phone number is 02074900152 and opening times are on our website https://t.co/5Vd8rs11x3pic.twitter.com/RdNOEVCr3X
Approximately half of British women said they had been sexually harassed at work or an educational institution, according to a 2017 BBC survey, and just 37% said they reported it.
Workplace sexual harassment has been in the spotlight since thousands of women began sharing their personal experiences online using the hashtag #MeToo, after several victims of sexual harassment by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein broke their silence in October 2017. In recent years, the #MeToo movement has gained traction globally, influencing women from Sweden to Japan to Indonesia to speak out.
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Despite the spotlight on this issue, Deeba Syed, senior legal officer at Rights of Women, said workplace sexual harassment is still a problem that often remains hidden.
“We know that complaints of sexual harassment at work are still frequently responded to in a gendered manner that is negative, undermining, or can lead to victimization,” she told the Guardian.
“That is why Rights of Women will also work toward dismantling the underlying structural problems that puts the burden on victims and makes it difficult for women to come forward through its policy work,” she said.
If you're based in the UK and want to talk to someone about experiencing sexual harassment in the work place call the hotline at 020 7490 0152.