Thousands of sexual abuse cases in the film industry go unreported due to fear of victimisation. That is according to Non-Profit Organisation, Sisters Working in Film and Television, (Swift).

The NPO was speaking during a virtual panel discussion on Gender-Based Violence in the film industry. The discussion was aimed at raising awareness about GBV and encouraging victims and witnesses to seek help.

With 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence kicking off on Thursday, incidents in the film industry were thrust under the spotlight.

During a virtual panel discussion, it was heard that sexual harassment and GBV are extremely rife in the industry, with not much being done to tackle the issue.

Swift’s Londeka Mlawuza says victims must report cases without fear of being victimised.

“People are so scared because they think if they say something they not going to get any more work. So, we are just helping to navigate that whole process and help you understand that you can speak up and know you will be protected. And that was one of the misconceptions …. that people are too scared to report because they thought what happens if the production company finds out.”

A survey conducted by Swift also found that 75% of women feel unsafe whilst on production sets, due to the increase in GBV incidents.

“Twenty three percent said they had been unwillingly touched while working in the industry. 65% said they had witnessed sexual harassment by someone in a higher position. So basically, 70 % said that they had felt very unsafe on sets. So, that makes up 75% who feel unsafe on sets because of the prevalence of sexual assault and the number of incidents that have gone unreported,” says Swift Board member, Zanele Mthembu.

The National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) says that they have found that women are scared to speak out against GBV in the male-dominated industry. The foundation’s Onke Dumako says more needs to be done to ensure women in the industry feel safer.

“It is very concerning because it’s male-dominated and the industry we are in is a male sport. And as a woman, you have to find a way to navigate your way through it and still find a way not to compromise yourself and your reputation and it’s a challenge for all women. Something needs to be done because the challenges are there.”