Sexual harassment can include embarrassing, abusive or insulting words or behaviour. It can include jokes, banter or innuendos that are derogatory or demeaning (often relating to one’s gender) as well as unwanted sexual comments or remarks, particularly about your clothes or appearance. Catcalling, wolf whistling, or sexual noises directed at you are all considered sexual harassment.
Rape, physical assault, indecent exposure and stalking are criminal offences and are encouraged to be reported to the police or the local Rape Crisis Centre who are able to offer independent advice on legal processes and support. Aggressive behaviour or threats and unwanted physical contact similarly are forms of sexual harassment harassment; common examples include uninvited or wanted kisses, groping, touching, pinching or smacking. Sexting, use of private images without established consent, sexually explicit messages, posts or social media are also considered forms of physical harassment.
Sexual harassment can be initiated by someone in a position of authority and can include the overbearing or misuse of power; it may also be carried out by an individual or a group of individuals.
It does not necessarily occur face to face; it may occur in the form of written communications (including email, visual images, social media, telephone and SMS).
“Brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioural and environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial, gender, sexual orientation, and religious slights and insults to the target person or group.” Everyday sexism in the form of micro-aggressions often facilitates a culture where sexual harassment is considered acceptable.
Anyone can be subjected to sexual harassment. Similarly, a perpetrator could be a colleague, a member of staff, a classmate, a partner, a stranger, a family member or even a friend. If you feel that you are being subjected to harassment or bullying in any form by, you should not feel that you have to tolerate it.
Sexual harassment can occur anywhere. Regardless of whether it has taken place on campus, in residences, union spaces or outside the university it is never okay.
“The word ‘consent’ in the context of the offence of rape is now defined in the Sexual Offences Act 2003. A person consents if she or he agrees by choice, and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice. The essence of this definition is the agreement by choice… Sexual assault is an act of physical, psychological and emotional violation, in the form of a sexual act, which is inflicted on someone without consent” (Rape Crisis England & Wales). Consent while in a relationship is just as important as consent outside of a relationship. Non-consensual sexual activity is against the law.
Consent, legally, is defined as agreeing by choice and having the freedom and capacity to make that choice. Those last two are important because it means that even if someone says yes (i.e. makes a choice) it may be that legally they were not able to give their consent.Someone is free to make a choice if there isn’t anything bad that would happen to them if they said no. Capacity is about whether you are physically and/or mentally able to make a choice and to understand the consequences of that choice are. Consent is not ongoing and needs to be negotiated not only every time you have sex (regardless of with same person or different) but even during sex as you start to do different things. Consent is contextual which means that if you agree to sex with particular stipulations (i.e. a condom), your consent is tied to this. The easiest way to remember it is; you are doing things because YOU want to and you must check that the other person/s are doing things because THEY want to. Find out more about making a consensual decision.