Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment: unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature in which submission to or rejection of such conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s work or school performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work or school environment.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

2 Types of Sexual Harassment:
  1. Quid pro quo– When a perpetrator makes conditions of employment contingent on the victim providing sexual favors. This type of harassment is less common.
  2. Hostile environment– When unwelcome, severe and persistent sexual conduct on the part of a perpetrator creates an uncomfortable and hostile environment (e.g., jokes, lewd postures, leering, inappropriate touching, rape, etc.). This type of harassment constitutes up to 95% of all sexual harassment cases.


Variety of Circumstances
  • Survivor and harasser do not have to be of different genders; both can be men, both women, or they can be different genders.
  • Similarly, as with sexual assault, women can be perpetrators.
  • The harasser can be a supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee.
  • The survivor does not have to be the person that is directly harassed. It can be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
  • Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the survivor.
  • The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome.
Common Emotional and Physical Reactions
  • Poor concentration at work
  • Stress on personal relationships
  • Fear/anxiety
  • Debilitating depression
  • Sleep/weight problems
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Staff turnover
  • Increased absenteeism
  • Tarnished company reputation
  • Increased payouts for sick leave and medical benefits
  • Vulnerability to hostile confrontations
  • Legal and consultant costs
  • Lower staff productivity
  • Poor staff morale
  • Less teamwork
Options for Action
  • Say “No” clearly– Express in direct language (verbal or written) that behavior must stop.
  • Document the harassment– Keep a written log, keep track of dates, times, and behavior.
  • Get emotional support– Friends/family can be good outlets.
  • Document your work– Keep copies of performance evaluations and memos that attest to the quality of your work.
  • Explore company channels– Talk to a supervisor and/or contact the personnel officer or human resources department.
  • File a complaint– If the problem can’t be solved through company policy, you may choose to pursue a legal remedy.

Sexual Harassment in the Schools

Sexual harassment is not limited to offices and work arenas. Increasingly, sexual harassment is being displayed in our nation’s schools.

It Can Take Milder Forms
  • Looks
  • Jokes
  • Graffiti on bathroom walls
  • Comments about body parts
Or More Severe Forms
  • Physical intrusion into personal space
  • Grabbing
  • Brushed up against in a sexual way
Common Reactions
  • Less confident
  • More self-conscious
  • Ashamed
  • Embarrassed
  • Consequently lower grades

Learn more about the laws in your state through RAINN’s state database.

This section was adapted from materials provided by the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault.

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