What is sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment occurs when someone receives unwanted sexual attention. This unwanted attention can take the form of speech, non-verbal interaction or different sorts of physical contact:
- Comments about your appearance, body or clothes.
- Indecent remarks.
- Questions or comments about your sex life.
- Requests for sexual favours.
- Sexual demands.
- Promises (or threats) concerning your employment in return for sexual favours.
- Looking or staring at your body.
- Display of sexually explicit material, such as calendars, pin-ups, magazines or websites.
- Indecent emails, texts or instant messages.
- Inappropriate messages, images or videos uploaded to websites such as social networking sites.
- Touching, pinching, hugging, caressing, kissing.
- Sexual assault.
People can also be harassed because of their disability, race, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation.
Who can sexually harass?
You can be sexually harassed by someone regardless of their relationship with you and regardless of their gender. Often people experience sexual harassment from someone they work with - some estimates suggest that half of women in employment have been subjected to sexual harassment.
How should I feel?
There is no right or wrong way to feel about the experience of sexual harassment. Harassment is always the responsibility of the perpetrator, and is never your fault. Sexual harassment may make you feel unwelcome, powerless, distressed, guilty, ashamed, or uncomfortable.
Often those who sexually harass, or others who are aware of the harassment, will dismiss what has happened , insisting “it was just a bit of fun”, “I was only being friendly”, or “Where’s your sense of humour?” Remarks like these can sometimes be difficult for people who have experienced sexual harassment not to feel as if they are overreacting. But sexual harassment is a serious abuse of power, and is often illegal.
What should I do?
It's entirely up to you how you want to respond to sexual harassment. What is important is to be able to make a decision that you feel happy with. OSARCC can help you work out what course of action is right for you. You might want to report that you have experienced sexual harassment. If you think that you might want action to be taken, it can be useful to keep a record of the incidents of harassment that you have experienced.
If you are experiencing sexual harassment at work, your workplace may have guidelines about how to report incidents of sexual harassment. If you want to report harassment to the police, the Citizens Advice Bureau have some guidelines about how to do this: