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:

Document the harassment:

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:

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:

Reporting sexual harassment:

 How do I help a friend who is being harassed?

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