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"I read a really disturbing report in the Exeter Express & Echo at the end of 2012. A report that left me confused, frustrated and angry.

A man was given a Sexual Offences Provention Order by the courts after admitting harassing a female colleague at work - so far, not a very unusual story. Which is not to say it doesn't matter - every act of sexual violence matters - but just, unfortunately, that the sexual harassment of women is endemic; it does happen everyday.

The harassing behaviour in this case was the man sitting behind the woman in her office, masturbating - on at least 50 occasions. He also admitted doing this before, to another woman at work. Yes, he was convicted. But amazingly, he is still employed at the same firm - as is the woman, although it is she who has been moved to another location!

And to add insult to injury, the defending solicitor talked disparagingly in court about the use of the Sexual Offences Prevention Orders, which she said were designed for serious matters, not to protect someone with "an eggshell personality being upset by needless scratching of your bottom".

What on earth do these two things say to the woman who was the victim of this crime? That she shouldn't be so sensitive to a man deliberately targeting her? That it's not such a big deal if a man is masturbating right behind you? That it's not a big deal? That his rights to continued employment are greater than hers to dignity and safety?

What a truly perverse and damaging message to send out to the victim of this crime - and to all other women".


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