Responding to Sexual Harassment
What can I do if I’m being harassed?
You can make a complaint in a variety of ways:
If you want to talk to someone confidentially, contact a confidential counselor:
- Women’s Center – Renée Redd (847) 491-2733
- Chaplain’s Services – (847) 491-7256
- CAPS – (847) 491-2151, after hours emergency (847) 491-8100
- Perspectives – (800) 456-6327
Document the harassment:
- Save any emails, texts, voicemail or answering machine messages, letters and gifts.
- Keep a log of what is happening with date, time and details of phone calls, and conversations. Also, note how it made you feel preferably in a bound notebook, (e.g., scared, unsafe, threatened, etc.). Note the presence of any witnesses and or individuals to whom you talked about the incident.
- Document any adverse actions that are taken against you. Keep copies of performance evaluations that attest to the quality of your work. Document your work and/or school performance and any steps you have taken.
Get help and support from family and friends. You need support. Staying silent protects harassers. Individuals subject to harassing behavior can experience anxiety, stress, frustration and feelings of being out of control. They may also have some difficulty carrying out usual responsibilities. They can equally develop a fear of coming to the environment in which this is happening.
If you are comfortable doing so, communicate clearly and directly to the harasser that their behavior is making you uncomfortable. Be specific about which behaviors they exhibit you would rather they cease. Say “No!” clearly and directly. A defining characteristic of sexual harassment is that it makes the recipient UNCOMFORTABLE. You have a right to be free from harassing behavior. Make it more about your feelings and less about theirs. You don’t have to participate in discussions in which they rationalize their treatment of you.
Reinforce your statements with strong, self-respecting body language: eye contact, head up, shoulders back, a strong, serious stance. Don’t smile. Timid, submissive body language will undermine your message. If the harassment continues, repeat yourself if you have to. Learn to set your own boundaries. If setting boundaries is new to you, try some role playing with a friend. Practice confronting the problem with your friend playing the role of the harasser. If this kind of response makes you too uncomfortable, consider writing a letter or email message laying out what makes you uncomfortable and what behavior you would like to cease.
A note about confidentiality:
While the University cannot promise complete confidentiality in its handling of harassment complaints, Northwestern makes every reasonable effort to handle inquiries, complaints, and related proceedings in a manner that protects the privacy of all parties. Each situation is resolved as discreetly as possible, with information shared only with those who need to know in order to investigate and resolve the matter. In certain circumstances, the University may be able to address your concerns and stop the behavior without revealing your identity to the alleged harasser. However, this is not possible in every matter, as some situations require the disclosure of the complainant’s identity in order to fully investigate the matter and/or to enable the accused harasser the ability to fully respond to the allegations against him or her.
In its investigation, the University will be sensitive to the feelings and situation of the alleged victim and/or reporter of sexual harassment. Nonetheless, the University has a compelling interest to address all allegations of sexual harassment brought to its attention. Northwestern reserves the right to take appropriate action in such circumstances, even in cases when the complainant is reluctant to proceed.
Confidential counselors are available to discuss harassment issues with you on a confidential basis. After consulting with a confidential counselor, you may decide to take no further action; such a decision is completely within your discretion. Because of the confidential nature of the counselor/patient relationship, seeking advice from a confidential counselor does not constitute reporting an incident of harassment. Find a confidential counselor.
What can I do as a supervisor or faculty member to prevent or respond to sexual harassment?
Supervisors and faculty members have special duties and obligations related to sexual harassment complaints:
- Educate your workforce about the Sexual Harassment Policy
- If you are told about or witness conduct that may violate the Sexual Harassment Policy, it is your duty to:
- Report the matter to the University Sexual Harassment Prevention Office (USHPO) as soon as possible.
- Advise complainants of support services.
- Handle the matter as discreetly as possible.
- Take steps so that the harassment, if it occurred, does not recur.
- Protect the complainant from retaliation
- Continue to consult with the University Sexual Harassment Prevention Officer
What is my role as a teaching assistant?
Teaching assistants have special rules concerning evaluative authority over students and sexual harassment.
Evaluating, supervising and instructing students:
- Teaching assistants cannot have evaluative, supervisory, or instructional authority (including the assignment of grades) over a student who is a relative or with whom the teaching assistant is having or has recently had a romantic or sexual relationship. If such a relationship exists or has existed between a teaching assistant and a student over whom the teaching assistant has evaluative or supervisory authority, the teaching assistant must report the relationship to his or her department chair, dean, or Dean of The Graduate School. For purposes of this policy, a relative is a blood relation, in-law, step or adoptive relative, as close as or closer than nephew or niece.
- If the person to whom the relationship is reported determines that such action is necessary, it is the responsibility of both the teaching assistant with the evaluative or supervisory authority and the individual to whom the relationship is reported to ensure that the evaluative or supervisory authority is reassigned. If this is not feasible in a particular instance, the teaching assistant and the individual to whom the relationship is reported must bring the matter to the attention of the Dean of The Graduate School. Failure to report a relationship is a violation of the policy.
Reporting sexual harassment:
- As a teaching assistant, if you are told about or witnessed conduct that you think may violate this policy, it is important to contact the Director of the University’s Sexual Harassment Prevention Office, or one of the other resource people listed in the University’s sexual harassment brochure or website.
How do I help a friend who is being harassed?
- It's important to take what your friend says seriously. Experiencing sexual harassment can be confusing and difficult to sort out. Providing a sympathetic ear will help your friend feel understood.
- Learn as much as you can about the available resources. It may be difficult for your friend to take the first step to talk to someone. You can call any of the resources and discuss the situation without identifying the people involved or filing a formal complaint. Gathering this information for your friend can help them make the best decision for their situation.
- Don't confront the harasser. Although it is normal to want to do this, it may only make things worse for your friend. Encourage your friend to save any physical evidence, including notes, pictures and emails. If your friend decides to file a complaint at some point, this evidence will be very important.
- If you are a residence hall staff member, be sure to follow your reporting protocols.
- It’s important to recognize that hearing about your friend’s situation could affect you in many different ways. Taking care of yourself will enable you to provide your friend with better support.