Background: Nursing has dealt with sexual harassment long before the term was coined during the 1970s. The current study investigated sexual harassment of nurses and nursing students in Israel following new legislation against sexual harassment in the workplace.
Methods: A self-report questionnaire was administered to 281 nurses and 206 nursing students (80% women) from five medical centres in Israel. Seven types of sexual harassment behaviour patterns were evaluated.
Findings: Frequency of sexual harassment decreased as the behaviour became more intimate and offensive. Ninety percent of subjects reported experiencing at least one type of sexual harassment and 30% described at least four types. A significant difference was found between nurses and nursing students. Furthermore, "severe" types of behaviour were experienced by 33% of nurses, in comparison with 23% of nursing students. Women were significantly more exposed than men to "mild" and "moderate" types of sexual harassment, while 35% of men vs. 26% of women were exposed to "severe" types of harassment. However, women responded significantly more assertively than men to "severe" sexual harassment.
Conclusions: Particular attention is needed when sexual harassment occurs to male students and nurses because they may be subjected to the more offensive sexual conducts and at the same time may lack the ability to respond assertively.