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Definition

The Equality Act 2010 defines sexual harassment as unwanted conduct of a sexual nature which has the purpose or effect of violating someone’s dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.

You don’t need to have previously objected to someone's behaviour for it to be considered unwanted. This means:

  • If the behaviour occurred only once, it can still "count" as sexual harassment.
  • Objecting is not a prerequisite for defining an event or pattern of behaviour as harassment.
  • Even if the perpetrator didn't mean to harass or offend, having the effect alone without intent is sufficient to "count".

Sexual harassment is a form of unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.

Anyone can experience sexual harassment, and often it can be linked with other forms of discrimination or harassment, such as based on your gender or race.

It is important to remember that within both the hospital and university environment, interactions with your colleagues, lecturers and other members of staff often involve power imbalances. This is important because you can be put in situations where you feel obligated to the people you’re with, and then it can be harder to say no when you feel uncomfortable. 

Examples

Sexual harassment can include:

  • sexual comments or jokes
  • physical behaviour, including unwelcome sexual advances, touching and various forms of sexual assault
  • displaying pictures, photos or drawings of a sexual nature
  • sending emails with a sexual content
  • asking for your phone number in return for giving you a sign off

Where can I get help?

Oxfordshire Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Centre (OSARCC)

Confidential Listening Space – 0800 783 629

Visit the OSARCC Website

Email: support@osarcc.org.uk 

Equality and Human Rights Commission – Sexual Harassment

Equality and Advisory Support Service: Freephone 0808 800 0082

Visit the Equality & Human Rights Commission website

You have a legal right under the Sex Discrimination Act not to be sexually harassed whilst at work. This section explains your rights and lets you know what you can do if you think you are experiencing sexual harassment.

Read the Citizen’s Advice guidance on Sexual Discrimination and Harassment at Work

NHS Choices -  Help after rape and sexual assault

Visit the NHS Choices website

Call the NHS Direct Helpline: 111

Victim Support

Visit the Victim Support website

Call the support line: 0845 30 30 900

Our services are confidential, free and available to anyone who's been raped or sexually assaulted, now or in the past. We can help, regardless of whether you have told the police or anyone else about the attack.