What is sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment is any kind of unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature that makes you feel humiliated or intimidated, or that creates a hostile environment.
When someone calls you insulting sexual names, talks about you in a sexual way that makes you feel uncomfortable (like commenting on your body), or spreads sexual rumours about you, that’s sexual harassment. It can happen in person, over the phone, or online.
Sexual harassment can make you feel anxious, depressed and lead to other problems, such as difficulties sleeping.
Workplace sexual harassment
Experiencing sexual harassment at work can create a stressful and hostile working environment, particularly if you’re harassed by someone who works closely with you.
If you’re sexually harassed by someone at work, you may feel intimidated or anxious about going to work.
Sexual harassment is a form of unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.
If you experience sexual harassment at work, you can report it to your manager, HR representative or trade union. It’s a good idea to keep a record of any emails you send or receive regarding the harassment as these may help if you make a claim.
Types of sexual harassment
Verbal harassment might include someone making sexually suggestive comments to you, for example remarking on your body or appearance, or name calling.
If you’re subjected to sexual jokes that make you feel uncomfortable, offended or intimidated, this counts as sexual harassment.
Unwanted sexual advances are a form of sexual harassment. This might include ‘leering’ or unwanted and inappropriate sexual propositions, whether in person, over the phone or by email.
Anyone can be subjected to unwanted sexual behaviour, whether you’re gay, straight, bi or trans.
Some people might think that sexual harassment towards someone of the same sex (for example, a woman sexually harassing another woman) might not be taken seriously, but that isn’t the case.
Sexual harassment isn’t normal and you’re not ‘asking for it’, whatever the circumstances.
If you contact Victim Support for help, we will believe you and any support you receive will be confidential. This means if you have experienced sexual harassment but don’t want to disclose your sexual orientation, you don’t have to.
How Victim Support helps
No matter what the situation is, sexual harassment is never ok and it is not your fault.
If you’ve been subjected to unwanted sexual behaviour, you can contact Victim Support for free and confidential help. We can explain the options available to you, provide you with practical help like personal alarms and give you emotional support for as long as you need.
Reporting sexual harassment
If possible, try to keep a record of your experiences of harassment including dates/times and details of what happened, in case you decide to report it.
If the harassment happens at your place of work, you can report it to your manager, HR team or trade union to take action. You can also speak to the Equality Advisory and Support Service for independent advice.
If you’re in danger, call the police on 999.
If sexual harassment escalates into violence, threats or sexual assault, you can report this to the police by calling 101 or contacting your local police force. Whether you report a crime to the police is entirely up to you.
You can also contact Victim Support and we can explain all the options available to you and support you through your journey.