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Sexual harassment of LGBT people in the workplace

Report type
Research and reports
Issue date
- LGBT women's experiences

Our findings reveal extremely high levels of LGBT workers reporting unwanted touching, unwanted attempts to kiss them or unwanted touching of their breasts, buttocks or genitals in the workplace; incidents which could be defined as sexual assault under UK law. Both LGBT men and women also reported high levels of serious sexual assault and rape at work.

Figure 2
Figure 2: Unwanted touching, sexual assault and rape

However, LGBT women were significantly more likely to report all of these experiences than the men who responded to our survey.

We found:

More than a third of women (35 per cent*) who responded to our survey had experienced unwanted touching, for example placing hands on their lower back or knee, compared to around one in six men (16 per cent).

More than one fifth (21 per cent*) had experienced sexual assault, for example unwanted touching of the breasts, buttocks or genitals, attempts to kiss, compared to one in eight men (12 per cent).

One in eight (12 per cent*) LGBT women had been seriously sexually assaulted or raped at work, compared to one in fourteen men (seven per cent).

1 in 8 LGBT women have been seriously sexually assaulted or raped at work

Qualitative evidence from this research and The Cost of Being Out at Work survey shows that many lesbian and bisexual women have experienced verbal sexual harassment from men at work, which included threats of unwanted sexual activity aimed at ‘turning them straight.’ These threats link to a specific form of targeted sexual violence experienced by lesbian and bisexual women where sexual assault and rape are used as a way of punishing and ‘curing’ them of their sexual orientation. This is also known as ‘corrective rape.’ 16 

One lesbian reported an escalating scale of sexual harassment that started with comments about turning her straight and escalated to unwanted touching and sexual assault.

She told us she experienced comments like: “I am determined to turn you straight”. She said:
  • 16. Corrective rape is a hate crime where a person is targeted because of their perceived sexual or gender orientation. The common intended consequence of the rape, as seen by the perpetrator, is to ‘correct’ the person’s orientation, to turn them heterosexual, or to make them ‘act’ more in conformity with gender stereotypes.

Touching my breasts on a work night out… trying to kiss me… it was related to turning me straight and trying to show me what I am missing.

36- to 45-year-old, lesbian, woman, The Cost of Being Out at Work survey