Sexual harassment is an unwelcome sexual advance, unwelcome
request for sexual favours or other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature
which makes a person feel offended, humiliated and/or intimidated, where
a reasonable person would anticipate that reaction in the circumstances.
Examples of sexually harassing behaviour include:
- unwelcome touching;
- staring or leering;
- suggestive comments or jokes;
- sexually explicit pictures or posters;
- unwanted invitations to go out on dates;
- requests for sex;
- intrusive questions about a person’s private life or body;
- unnecessary familiarity, such as deliberately brushing up against a person;
- insults or taunts based on sex;
- sexually explicit physical contact; and
- sexually explicit emails or SMS text messages.
Where can sexual harassment occur?
Sexual harassment can occur in the workplace or learning environment, like a school or university. It can happen in many different scenarios, including after-hours conversations, exchanges in the hallways, and non-office settings of employees or peers.
What can I do when I witness sexual harassment?
- Create a distraction. Do what you can to interrupt the harassment, or distract those taking part in the harassment. But remember to make sure that you aren’t putting yourself in danger by doing this. If someone seems like they could become violent, do not draw their attention.
- Ask directly. Talk directly with the person who is being harassed. If they are being harassed at work or school, offer to accompany them anytime they have to meet with the harasser. If a friend is worried about walking alone to their car at night, offer to walk with them.
- Refer to an authority. The safest way to intervene for both you and the person being harassed may be to bring in an authority figure. You can talk to another employee, security guard, RA in your dorm, bartender, or bouncer, and they will often be willing to step in.
- Enlist others. It can be hard to step in alone, especially if you are worried about your own safety or if you don’t think you will be able to help on your own. It may be a good idea to enlist the help of a friend or another by stander.
What are some effects of sexual harassment?
Experiencing sexual harassment may cause some survivors to face emotional, physical, or mental health concerns. Some of them might include:
- Powerlessness and loss of control
Mental health effects:
- Panic attacks
- Difficulty concentrating
- Loss of motivation
- Substance abuse
- Suicidal ideation
- Increased stress levels
- Sleep disturbances
- Eating disturbances
You don’t have to be a hero to make a positive impact in someone’s life, and you can intervene in a way that fits your comfort level and is appropriate for the situation. If you choose to step in, you may be able to give the person being harassed a chance to get to a safe place or leave the situation.Let’s protect us and others too.