Sexual Harassment

What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is unwelcome, unsolicited and non-reciprocated behaviour of a sexual nature which, in the circumstances, a reasonable person, aware of those circumstances, would have anticipated the possibility that the preson would feel offended, humiliated or intimidated.

Behaviour need not be repeated or continuous, as a single incident or comment can amount to sexual harassment.

Examples of behaviour of a sexual nature that could constitute sexual harassment include:

  • Displaying pornographic or sexually explicit material (posters, screen savers etc)
  • Unwelcome physical contact, gestures or other non-verbal communication
  • Sexually explicit emails, comments using social media, jokes or conversations
  • Sexual insults or taunting
  • Asking someone for sex
  • Making promises or threats in return for sexual favours
  • Sexual orientation-based insults or taunts
  • Indecent assault, rape or stalking (which are also criminal offences).

Mutual flirtation or sexual contact that is desired and freely consented to is not sexual harassment. It is not sexual harassment to develop friendships, sexual or otherwise, with staff members or students. Behaviour that is not freely consented to because of fear, intimidation or coercion constitutes sexual harassment because it is unwelcome.

Seeking Advice and Support

A network of Sexual Harassment Advisers (SHAs), trained and experienced in handling harassment complaints and procedures, provide advice to staff and students. An Adviser can:

  • help you clarify whether behaviour perceived as offensive in fact constitutes sexual harassment
  • explore possible strategies to resolve the difficulty using informal procedures
  • advise the person of their rights under relevant legislation
  • provide referrals to support services such as the University Counselling Service.

If necessary, separate Advisers can provide support and assistance to both the person raising concerns and the person who is the subject of those concerns.

Documents and Resources