Research coordinated by Lleida and London reveals that 3 out of 4 women in the health and academic fields in Spain have suffered sexual harassment

The study conducted between August and September this year is published today in The Lancet Regional Health - Europe

The non-consensual kiss of Jenni Hermoso and the #Seacabó movement has continued to trigger reactions beyond the sporting sphere. Research coordinated by Montserrat Gea-Sánchez, head of the Health Care Research Group at IRBLleida and professor at the University of Lleida, and Helena Legido-Quigley, Professor at Imperial College, UK, in collaboration with Women in Global Health Spain, reveals that 3 out of every 4 women surveyed in the Spanish health and academic field have suffered sexual harassment.

The scientific study, which has been published in the journal The Lancet Regional Health - Europe, reveals alarming data; 73.6% of respondents reported having suffered sexual harassment and 28.7% some form of abuse. The consequences of such abuse go beyond immediate harm: 34.5% of victims report lasting psychological effects, including disgust, fear, anger, shame, anxiety, depression, trauma and various mental health problems. The collection of testimonies was launched through social media via a survey on 29 August and ended on 11 September after the collection of 345 personal stories, shedding light on this serious and widespread problem of sexism and sexual harassment, particularly affecting vulnerable women in precarious positions.

"We are sincerely grateful for each story shared. These women, brave enough to break their silence, are the driving force behind the urgent change we need in academia and in our health system. We propose concrete measures, such as fostering transformative leadership, implementing comprehensive prevention policies, challenging the normalisation of harassment, and evaluating with measurable indicators. We seek to eradicate power and sexual abuse by establishing a safe, respectful and enabling environment for the well-being of all people," said Helena Legido-Quigley, Professor at Imperial College, UK.

In response to these findings, it urges above all those at the top of universities and health institutions to seriously address gender inequality and respect for human rights, recognising that sexual harassment is deeply connected to rights such as equality and social justice. The study proposes a series of recommendations:

  • Promote gender balance and diversity in leadership roles.
  • Implement comprehensive prevention policies beyond the Equality Protocols.
  • Challenge normalisation through awareness raising, campaigns and dynamic training.
  • Integrate harassment protocol information into on-boarding processes.
  • Develop clear definitions of sexual harassment and abuse of power.
  • Incorporate Monitoring, Periodic Evaluation and Learning practices.
  • Promote a survivor-centred approach.
  • Zero Tolerance Strategy.

"In light of the information shared by the participants it is clear that forms of abuse against women because they are women continue to be normalised. It is our obligation, and especially that of women in a stable position, not to allow these patterns to continue to be reproduced between generations. It is essential that the application of current legislation is real and that governments and institutions apply a policy of zero tolerance towards sexual abuse and harassment through the recommendations we propose," said Montserrat Gea-Sánchez, principal investigator of the IRBLleida Health Care Research Group and lecturer at the University of Lleida.

At the end of August, a group of researchers launched the initiative inviting women in the health and academic sectors to anonymously share their experiences of sexual harassment and other forms of abuse of power, to find out whether incidents like the one in the sporting arena were also present in the academic and health sectors.

"#SeAcabó is not exactly the Spanish #MeToo, we can consider it softer because it does not point directly to the culprits. However, it is presented as a more radical and direct pointing out of the structural causes that produce and/or facilitate this type of harassment that is so present in our society" explained another of the researchers of the study and professor at the Pablo de Olavide University Foundation, Elena González-Rojo.

Sexual harassment experienced by study participants takes many forms. Verbal abuse consisting of inappropriate, offensive and humiliating comments is the most frequent type (53%). Physical abuse, such as unwelcome touching, groping, kissing and hugging, is also frequent (44.9%), especially in the health sector. Unwanted sexual advances and unwanted sexual advances and requests for sexual favours occur in 6.4% of cases, including quid pro quo harassment. Cyberbullying and sexual memes are less frequent, with 3.8% of accounts reporting such practices. In addition, several participants described experiences of hostile or offensive harassment perpetrated by peers and colleagues in healthcare and academic workplaces, specifically in 47.5% of the shared experiences.

"The study, at the same time, is part of a process of reparation for the victims. Some have not spoken about it or felt they were not heard. Giving their testimony its own voice and consideration is an example of how science can and should contribute to uncovering inequalities and discrimination of women's rights, in the search for effective solutions. This analysis also makes a fundamental contribution in demonstrating that the impact of violence against women is not only when the event occurs, but that it is sustained over time and that on many occasions there is no adequate response from the public or private system. In the face of this institutional violence, a call is made for the committed involvement of any social agent to attend to the victims correctly and without complicity with the aggressor", said Ana Bernal-Triviño, researcher at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya and journalist specialising in gender violence.

Article: Blanca Paniello-Castillo, Elena González-Rojo, Thaïs González-Capella, Neus Rosell Civit, Ana Bernal-Triviño, Helena Legido-Quigley, Montserrat Gea-Sánchez, "Enough is Enough": tackling sexism, sexual harassment, and power abuse in Spain's academia and healthcare sector, The Lancet Regional Health - Europe, 2023, 100754,ISSN 2666-7762,

Montserrat Gea-Sánchez, head of the Health Care Research Group at IRBLleida and lecturer at the University of Lleida, Montserrat Gea-Sánchez