In total, an estimated 8.2 million Italian women aged between 14 and 65 – 43.6 percent – have experienced sexual harassment in their lifetime, the findings published on Tuesday show.
For the first time, the agency also investigated men's experience of sexual harassment, and found that 18.8 percent had experienced harassment – a total of 3.75 million people. The perpetrators of harassment were male in 97 percent of cases where the victim was female, and in 85.4 percent of cases relating to male victims.
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The harassment took many forms, with verbal harassment being the most commonly reported kind, followed by unwanted touching. For women, unwanted touching was most likely to take place in public transport (accounting for 27.9 percent of such cases), while for men bars and nightclubs were the most common location.
Men and women also differed in how serious they considered the physical harassment to be.
More than three quarters (76.4 percent) of women who suffered physical harassment considered the assault to be 'very' or 'quite' serious, compared to only 47.2 percent of male victims.
An estimated 1.4 million women, or just under nine percent of those in this age group, reported experiencing physical harassment or sexual blackmail in their workplace, 425,000 of them within the last three years alone. In the course of their lifetime, 1.7 million women said they had been victims of sexual blackmail in order to be hired, promoted, or to keep their job.
In those cases, 80 percent of the women affected said they had told no one at work about the incident, while Istat reported that "almost no one" had reported the blackmail to police.
Hundreds of Italian women participated in the '#MeToo' social media movement in late 2017, and allegations surfaced against prominent Italian men. Former Italian football president Carlo Tavecchio was accused of harassment and Italian filmmaker Fausto Brizzi, one of Italy's most prolific contemporary writers and directors, has been accused by at least ten women of unwanted sexual advances.
On the whole, the movement failed to gain the same momentum it has seen in other countries. However, two recent open letters signed by around 250 women from Italy's cinema and journalism industries called for structural change in order to tackle harassment, possibly showing that the tide has begun to turn.