Anyone can experience sexual harassment. It doesn’t matter what gender you are.
Here are some examples of sexual harassment:
- Looking at or whistling at a person in a way that they find unpleasant.
- Commenting on a person’s body in a way that they find unpleasant.
- Touching a person’s body in a way that they find unpleasant.
- Calling a person something that is related to sex, which the person doesn’t think is OK.
- Making unwanted sexual suggestions or moves on someone.
- Spreading rumours about a person which are about sex or the person’s body.
- Sending sex-related messages, photos or videos to someone who does not want these.
- Sharing photos of a person who does not want them shared.
You decide whether you are being sexually harassed
Sometimes it is difficult to know whether or not something is OK. Something might feel good at first but begin to feel wrong later.
Trust your own feelings. If you think that something feels wrong and not OK, then it is not OK.
Being harassed is never your fault
It can be difficult to know what to do, if you are being sexually harassed. You might think you have done something wrong. Afterwards, you might begin to feel unwell, with symptoms such as headache, stomach ache, sadness or anxiety.
But it is never your fault. The other person is doing something that they have no right to do. It does not matter what you look like, what you wear or what relationship you have with that person. It does not matter whether the person is intending to hurt you, or not.
What can I do if I am sexually harassed?
Here are a few suggestions:
- Call them out on it
You could say for example, “You’re touching my butt and I don’t like it. I want you to stop”, or “I don’t like that you are sending me these kinds of messages”. Ask someone for help with calling them out, if you would like.
- If the harassment does nott stop, tell someone
Tell a friend, an adult you trust, a teacher, a colleague or someone else. You can go together and talk to your principal, boss or someone else, depending on where the harassment is taking place.
- Ask for help
If it happens on the bus or in a bar for example, see if there is anyone working there who can help you. Or you could ask another person for help. Call the police if you think that you have been the victim of a crime.
- Call them out together with someone
Are there several of you being harassed? It might feel easier to call them out together. Tell your principal, boss or someone else as well, depending on where the harassment is taking place.
- Get help to feel better
It is usually good to talk about what has happened. You can visit a Youth Guidance Centre, a Health Clinic or call a women’s helpline. You can go to the school counsellor or Student Health Centre if you are at school or university.
- Report harassment that happens at school, university or work
Contact a teacher, the principal or head of university or another member of staff, if the harassment is happening at school or university. If the harassment continues after you have reported it, contact your Child and School Student Representative.
Contact your manager, employer or occupational health & safety representative, if the harassment is taking place at work. If the harassment continues after you have reported it, contact the Discrimination Ombudsman.
Sexual harassment can be a crime
Sexual harassment can be a crime. It can, for example, be a crime to send sexual images to another person, to show your genitals to someone, or to touch another person’s body, if they do not want you to.
If you have been the victim of a crime, you can report it to the police. You can always talk to the police if you are unsure about whether it was a crime or not.
Sexual harassment at school or at work
No-one should have to put up with sexual harassment at school, university or work. There are rules and laws enforcing this. Your principal, head of the university or employer must do something to stop the harassment, once it has been reported.
It may be a case of discrimination if the school, university or employer does not do anything to stop the harassment.
Have you sexually harassed another person?
It is never OK to say or do something which involves another person’s body or sexual activity, if that person is not OK with it. Some forms of sexual harassment are a crime.
The person you are harassing can find it extremely unpleasant. It does not matter whether you think it is serious, or not.
Make sure you check that it is okay, when you comment on or touch another person’s body.
It is also important to call people out if you see them sexually harassing others. Make it clear that it is not OK.