Sexual Harassment

What is sexual harassment?

Sexual Harassment is a violation of a person's civil and constitutional rights.  Sexual harassment can be physical, verbal, or non-verbal, including unwanted touching, comments about a person's body or offensive gestures.  Most sexual harassment falls into one of the categories below:

  • Gender Harassment: Includes put-downs, sexual questions, remarks, gestures, looks, insults, offensive graffiti, or jokes about sex or gender.
  • Seductive Behavior: Unwanted or offensive sexual advances
  • Sexual Bribery: Solicitation of sexual activity or behavior by promising a reward (promotion, better grades) for the activity
  • Sexual Coercion: Pressure for sexual activity or behavior by threats (withholding promotion, lower grades)
  • Sexual Imposition: Includes unwanted touching such as patting, pinching, or "accidentally" brushing up against another person's body.

How do you know if it's sexual harassment?

If you feel uncomfortable or threatened as a result of the action, it's probably harassment, regardless of the intent of the harasser. Ways you can recognize sexual harassment:

  • Sexual harassment is unwelcome. You feel uncomfortable with this type of attention.
  • Sexual harassment leaves you feeling powerless. You fear you may risk your job by protesting the advances.
  • Sexual Harassment interferes with productivity. You can't concentrate on your work, or you find yourself neglecting tasks while trying to avoid contact with a harasser.

What can be done to stop sexual harassment?

If you feel you are a victim of sexual harassment, try these steps to stop the harassment and to aid you if legal action becomes necessary.

  • Be assertive
  • Check with others
  • Keep a diary
  • Share this information
  • Keep documentation of job evaluations
  • Find an advocate

If it continues...

  • File a complaint
  • Seek a new job
  • Take legal action

(Reference: "Sexual Harassment: How to Cope," Virginians Aligned Against Sexual Assault)