Sexual Harassment

What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual Harassment is deliberate and/or repeated sexual behavior that is not welcome, and not asked for. There are three forms:

  • Physical - touching, pinching, and grabbing body parts, being cornered
  • Verbal - making sexual gestures, looks, jokes, or verbal comments, spreading sexual rumors or making sexual propositions
  • Visual - sending sexual notes or pictures, writing sexual graffiti

Hostile Environment is any sexually oriented conduct or atmosphere that is intimidating or offensive to a "reasonable victim" who is exposed to the sexual harassment of another person.

Quid Pro Quo means "you do something for me, I'll do something for you" in Latin. Examples of this form of sexual harassment would be trading sexual favors for grades.

The following 3 things have to exist before something is considered sexual harassment:

  • The behavior must be sexual in nature and sex-based.
  • The behavior must be unwelcome and unwanted.
  • The behavior must be deliberate and/or repeated.

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Impact on the Individual:

Emotional Reactions:

Anxiety, anger, fear, frustration, insecurity, betrayal, embarrassment, confusion, self-consciousness, shame, powerlessness, guilt, isolation, lack of control.

Physical Reactions:

Headaches, sleeplessness, stomach aches, weight gain or loss, phobias, panic attacks, nightmares.

Social Reactions:

Withdrawal, fear of new people or situations, lack of trust, self-preoccupation, changes in dress or physical appearance, negative attitudes

Acedemic Reactions:

Changes in study or work habits, loss of job or promotion, negative performance evaluations, drop in work performance due to stress, lower grades as punishment for reporting sexual harassment or for turning down sexual advances.

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How NOT to Harass:

Until you learn otherwise, assume that a person you don't know well will not enjoy sexual jokes or sexual advances. Work on your listening skills. If a person's response, whether verbal or physical, seems negative, trust that it is. Does he or she avert their eyes?
Assume No means No.

  • Put yourself in their place. Would you want your sister, girlfriend or brother treated that way?
  • If you think you have offended someone, try to discuss the matter directly and apologize, and don't engage in the behavior again.
  • Refrain from telling jokes that demean men or women.
  • Speak up when you see someone harassing another individual. If you are feeling uncomfortable, there is a chance that other people are feeling uncomfortable too.

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Statistic: An average of 59% of females who work have personally experienced sexual harassment. (Source: Sexual Harassment Resources Guide, Barbara Cook Washington State Human Rights Commission. Revised 1992.)
Source: Adapted from Crime and Sexual Assault Services (CASAS) website, Student Affairs, WWU

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Page Updated 06.03.2013