The answer to whether anonymous hotlines reduce sexual harassment isn’t a strict yes or no. The answer is a resounding yes when it comes to the capability of the hotline to help.
However, as with most programs, everything comes down to how the hotline is used. Lack of reporting and lack of action after a report both hinder how effective hotlines are.
Victims Are Afraid To Speak Out
Even with anonymous hotlines in place, victims may still be afraid to speak out against sexual harassment. If businesses haven’t proven how the system works and how victims are protected, they may fear retaliation. For those who can’t afford to lose their jobs, they’d rather try to avoid the situation as much as possible versus the risk of being discovered as the one who reported the crime.
Anonymous hotlines reduce sexual harassment only if employees feel comfortable using them. People do want to speak up, which is why whistleblowing works. But, fear and a history of retaliation in a business can prevent that.
No Action Is Ever Taken
At first, employees may report sexual harassment. However, if the harassment continues unchecked, it’ll prove that the anonymous hotline isn’t working. The reason is usually a poor investigative process.
First, employees need to know what to expect from investigations. They should have an idea of how long it will take. This helps them better understand the process.
Second, the investigations need to be conducted by an unbiased team. If victims know the harasser is part of the team, they know no action will ever be taken to solve the issue.
Employees Don’t Know They Exist
Obviously, the idea that anonymous hotlines reduce sexual harassment can’t work at all if employees aren’t aware it exists. Employees might be told they can report issues, but if the company doesn’t tell them how, they’re not going to use the hotline.
Sometimes, this is done on purpose because upper management hates the idea of having a hotline. They see is it as damaging to the business, though the opposite is true. Other times, it’s just a communication issue and nothing more.
Employees Don’t Believe “Anonymous” Exists
Unless a company can show that victims’ identities are kept anonymous, no one will report anything. Since a team from the company is collecting reports, victims might be concerned that someone knows who they are.
Having a third-party collect and investigate is the safest approach. They don’t have any ties to the company or any bias when it comes to the employees. Otherwise, employees might see anonymous hotlines as anything but anonymous.
Anonymous Hotlines Can Reduce Sexual Harassment
When implemented correctly, anonymous hotlines do have the power to reduce sexual harassment. Employees have to feel safe using it and action has to be taken against those who are guilty. Most importantly, victims should never be retaliated against.