TV presenter Hayley Matthews speaks out about sexual harassment

Hayley Matthews. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Hayley Matthews. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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Scottish TV and radio presenter and columnist Hayley Matthews has spoken out about her experiences of sexual harassment at work and the distress it has caused her.

Writing in today’s Scotsman, the 37-year-old describes how male colleagues slapped her bottom and attempted to engage her in salacious conversations, including “ejaculation-themed chat”.

She relates her horror that one man was encouraged by an “awful female sidekick”.

READ MORE: Hayley Matthews: Sexual harassment damaged my career but won’t beat me

She said: “A female colleague egged him on, delighted with his vulgar behaviour in some sort of sick, twisted way. I felt she was taking great delight in my ridicule.”

She added: “I wouldn’t join in their sordid conversations and was an outcast in a small team. It all felt very stressful; however, I needed the job and kept quiet. The train journeys home were filled with relief as I’d cry while going over events in my head.”

Her revelations are the latest in a deluge of similar stories that began with a string of accusations being levelled against US film producer Harvey Weinstein.

This sparked the #metoo movement, which has seen a long line of A-list celebrities coming forward to reveal their experiences of sexual harassment at the hands of those who wield the power to make or break a career.

The experiences endured by Matthews and other victims suggest this is an everyday situation for many, according to Sandy Brindley, chief executive of the charity Rape Crisis Scotland, which campaigns to end sexual violence and supports survivors.

She says it is time for a step-change in society.

“Recent months have seen an outpouring of women speaking out about sexual harassment,” she said.

“That has taken a lot of courage but it’s time we acted to change the culture, which seems to have allowed everyday sexual harassment of so many women. And the impact can be devastating.

“We need to take it seriously. We need to listen to women when they speak out about sexual harassment because I think women have been speaking out for years but have not been taken seriously.

“So we need to change the culture where we do take it seriously and act. Employers should have clear procedures in place and should respond when somebody does have the courage to speak out about being sexually harassed.”

A new survey for the union Unite has revealed that workers in bars and restaurants are customarily subjected to unwanted sexual attention.

More than half of those who responded said they had been targeted by customers, while nearly a quarter had received advances from a manager.

This week the London-based Presidents Club announced it would close following allegations that hostesses, who had been told to dress in skimpy outfits and high heels, were groped at its men-only annual charity dinner.

Staff at the Scottish Parliament have been polled about their experiences after revelations emerged of historic sexual harassment and assault at Westminster, Holyrood and the Welsh Assembly.

Ms Brindley added: “It’s for all of us, men and women, to contribute to a culture where this is simply not acceptable. Men need to take responsibility for their behaviour and stop doing it, but also bystanders should be intervening to make sure women are OK and to challenge this behaviour.”