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What constitutes sexual harassment?

On Behalf of | Mar 12, 2020 | Sexual Harassment |

Everyone deserves to be safe and respected. Still, sexual harassment doesn’t discriminate based on gender or relationship. Anyone can be a victim and deserves the ability to speak up for themselves.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances. In reality, sexual harassment looks many different ways, including:

  • Physical sexual assault
  • Unwanted sexual touching
  • Requests for sexual favors
  • Unwelcome advances
  • Inappropriate comments, including jokes or discussions revolving around sex, gender or sexual orientation
  • Explicit or implicit conditions for advancement based on sexual favors
  • Exposing oneself
  • Unwelcome sexually explicit messages or photos

The differences between harassment, assault and misconduct

Sexual harassment, sexual assault and sexual misconduct are often used interchangeably, but legally they mean different things. Sexual harassment is a broad term. It generally refers to unwanted sexual attention, either verbal or physical. This is against civil laws but not typically a criminal offense.

Sexual assault is more specific, meaning not consensual sexual contact or behavior. Sexual assault refers to criminal offenses, including:

  • Rape or attempted rape
  • Unwanted sexual touching
  • Persuading or forcing another to perform sexual acts

Sexual misconduct is a broad, non-legal term. It can refer to harassment, but also behaviors that go against rules like company policies. This includes consensual relationships between coworkers or between bosses and employees.

If you have been the victim of sexual harassment or assault, don’t wait to see if the situation resolves itself. It is never permissible and needs to be reported. Talk to an authority figure like the police or your boss who you feel will be willing to help. If you don’t feel comfortable or safe talking to authorities on your own, bring a trusted friend.