What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is unwanted and unwelcome words, conduct, or behaviour of a sexual nature that has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, embarrassing, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the recipient. It is a misuse of personal or institutional power and often based on a person’s gender, although it is rarely about sexual desire.

Whether or not the harasser intended to be offensive is irrelevant. The limit of acceptable behaviour is up to the recipient to decide. A single incident or persistent behaviour can amount to harassment.

Sexual harassment can include – but is not limited to – catcalling, following, making unnecessary and unwanted physical contact, sexual jokes and comments, giving unwelcome personal gifts, wolf-whistling, leering, derogatory comments, unwelcome comments about a person’s body or clothing, asking unwelcome questions about a person’s sex life and/or sexuality, engaging in unwelcome sexual propositions, invitations and flirtation, making somebody feel uncomfortable through displaying or sharing sexual material.

Sexual harassment does not necessarily occur face-to-face – it can be in the form of emails, visual images (such as sexually explicit pictures on walls in a shared environment), social media, phone, text messages, and image-based sexual abuse such as revenge porn and upskirting.

Sexual harassment is a criminal offence and contrary to the university's disciplinary regulations.


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