Sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual behaviour which compromises your dignity and makes you feel offended, humiliated, intimidated or threatened. Sexual harassment may be verbal, non-verbal or physical. It can range from rude remarks about your appearance to violence and assault, and can include:
- sexual innuendoes
- indecent or offensive remarks or jokes
- questions or comments about your sex life
- demands for sexual favours
- being leered or stared at
- the display of sexually explicit material (for example, in an office)
- unwanted physical contact, such as brushing up against you or pinching you
- ‘Upskirting’ refers to the act of taking a photograph (also known as a “creepshot”) of underneath a person’s skirt without their permission. Upskirting is an alarmingly common occurrence and is usually performed in a public place, which is often crowded, which makes it hard to spot people taking such images.
Being a witness to or experiencing an indecent act may make you feel incredibly uncomfortable and vulnerable, particularly if you are alone. If the person or persons responsible are exhibiting intimidating behaviours, then you may feel unable to confront them for fear of further discomfort and/or of being threatened. The knowledge that someone has harassed you or taken potentially graphic images without consent can cause emotional distress for a long time after the event itself.
Although most victims of sexual harassment are women, harassed by men, men can also be harassed by women. Lesbian and gay people may also find themselves harassed by people of either sex.
Sexual harassment is an abuse of power. Many people are reluctant to complain about it, because they are afraid of making the situation worse, and possibly losing their job, home or friends as a result. They may feel that it's just part of life, and must be tolerated.
However, no one should have to put up with sexual harassment.