Sexual harassment is a form of gender based violence that often supports and perpetuates the existence of other forms of violence, such as sexual assault. Sexual harassment should not be viewed as disconnected and insignificant actions, or a lesser form of violence. Ambivalence towards instances of sexual harassment allows a culture that does not challenge gender based violence as a whole.
Defining Sexual HarassmentThe Northwestern University definition of sexual harassment is an unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature:
- Where sexual favors are used or threatened to be used as a basis for academic or employment decisions
- Where the conduct creates a hostile, intimidating, or offensive academic or working environment
- Where the conduct has the effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance
- Or where other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature that is sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive to limit a person's ability to participate in or benefit from an educational program or activity.
This definition is taken from the Sexual Misconduct and Title IX website, where additional definitions of sexual misconduct can be found.
Sexual harassment can also take the form of street harassment, which is a form of sexual violence that takes place in public spaces. While street harassment can be challenging to address, often for reasons of safety and social norms, there are resources out there. Hollaback! is one organization working to give individuals a space to confront their harassers; as they write on their website, sexual harassment is a serious issue because it “constantly reminds historically subordinated groups (women and LGBTQI folks, for example) of their vulnerability to assault in public spaces.” Visit Hollaback!’s website to read more about street harassment and how you can respond.