WHAT IS SEXUAL
consists of unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual, favors, or other
physical or verbal behavior of a sexual nature which has the effect or intent of
interfering with an individual's academic or work performance by creating an
intimidating, hostile or offensive environment. Essentially, sexual harassment
implies a power relationship between individuals which can seriously undermine
the teaching/learning environment. The following examples of sexual harassment
are provided by the Project on the Status and Education of Women:
harassment or abuse
pressure for sexual activities
touching, patting, or pinching
at a person's body
brushing against a person's body
sexual favors accompanied by implied or overt threats concerning grades,
employment, or evaluations
assault, including rape
Although most sexual
harassment incidents involve a male staff member, male faculty member or male
student harassing a female, there can be cases of women harassing men, women
harassing women, and men harassing men.
WHY DO I NEED TO
KNOW ABOUT SEXUAL HARASSMENT?
Based on your own
cultural experiences, you may believe that sexual harassment is not a possible
occurrence, or that it won't happen to you. In some cultures, for example,
sexual harassment between a faculty member and a student could never occur
because, unlike in the U.S., informal relationships between faculty and students
are just not possible. Some cultures may assume that a woman appearing in public
alone is announcing her availability for sexual activity. Or, it may be assumed
that relationships between men and women are primarily romantic or sexual. In
the United States, however, women frequently appear alone in public with the
expectation that they will be treated non-sexually, and men and women typically
interact on a non-sexual basis as colleagues and friends.
Consequently, it is important to be aware of the ways in which
relationships between men and women in the United States may differ from
relationships between men and
women in your country.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE
SEXUAL HARASSMENT DILEMMAS I MAY FACE?
can happen to anyone, and being aware of what kinds of behavior may constitute
sexual harassment can help to minimize difficulties. The following descriptions
of potentially harassing encounters are taken from the videotape The Wrong Idea,
produced by the University of Minnesota.
It is the first day
of class, and the instructor/teaching assistant is reviewing the course
requirements. Because the assignments are difficult, he encourages
students to cooperate with each other in working on them. He then singles out
the only woman in the class, noting that she might need extra help. He jokes
about the fact that there will probably be a lot of volunteers to help her. The
men in the class react by laughing and looking at each other. The woman looks
uncomfortable and embarrassed.
A male student
employee and his female supervisor are finishing up their work at the end of the
day. The supervisor approaches the student and compliments him on his work and
dedication. Then she tells him he is attractive and probes to see if he is
available. When she finds out he is, she comments on their shared loneliness and
pressures him to join her for dinner.
A group of students
from a class are in the campus pub with their male professor.
Everyone except one female student has to leave. As the last male student
leaves, he makes innuendos about leaving the professor alone with the female
student. The professor asks the student if she has plans and she replies that
she plans to study. The professor suggests going out as a couple and she
proposes inviting others from the class. He protests, and she realizes that the
conversation is more than just friendly. She makes an excuse to leave, while he
pressures her for an answer to his invitation.
A male student comes
to his female teaching assistant's office and, after closing the office door,
asks for help with an assignment. As she begins to look over his work, he moves
close to her and begins lightly brushing her leg with his fingers.
She looks uncomfortable.
A female student
comes to talk with her male advisor about her master's thesis. As she enters, he
inappropriately stares at her body and, shortly after she sits down, he pats her
hand. She tries to keep the conversation on the topic of her research, while he
tries to bring it to a personal level. He suggests that they could work together
better if they get to know each other more. She tries again to get him to focus
on her question. He puts his arm around her and she looks uncomfortable. When he
rests his hand on hers, she makes an excuse and leaves.
WHAT MAY HAPPEN TO
SOMEONE CHARGED WITH COMMITTING SEXUAL HARASSMENT?
Sexual harassment is
not only a violation of University policy, it is also a violation of state and
federal law. While different cultures may permit varied behaviors between and
among the sexes, certain behavior which could be interpreted as harassment will
not be tolerated at this institution. Violators may be subject to university
disciplinary action and/or arrest.
WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS
IF I THINK I HAVE BEEN SEXUALLY HARASSED?
If you believe that
you have been sexually harassed, one of the most important things to realize is
that the harassment was not YOUR fault. There is nothing wrong with YOU. The
blame for sexual harassment lies with the perpetrator, not with the recipient.
There are a number of things you can do. First, consult with a representative of
the Affirmative Action Office, the Office of International Student and Scholar
Services, or the University Counseling Center, and consider the following
the harasser to stop
someone with you if you think you might be sexually harassed
down what is happening to you. Include dates, time, location, any witnesses,
what was said or done, what you did to try to stop it
the harasser in writing that you object to this behavior, and describe what
has upset you. Keep a copy of the letter
someone else! Talk with a friend, tell a trusted member of the faculty or
a complaint with the Affirmative Action Office
there has been a physical assault (including rape), it is a crime and should
be reported to the University Police (Extension 1-1234 from on campus
phones, 215-204-1234 from off campus phones)
WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF
I COMPLAIN ABOUT SEXUAL HARASSMENT?
Given the variety of
factors involved in sexual harassment incidents, including your own wishes
regarding actions to be taken, it is not possible to provide a uniform
description of sexual harassment complaint processes. Complaints are handled on
a case-by-case basis, and confidentiality will be maintained to the extent
When you come
forward with a sexual harassment complaint you are taking a very difficult but
absolutely essential first step toward ending harassment behavior, both towards
yourself and toward others (the harasser has probably victimized a number of
other people over time and will continue to do so until stopped). The
Affirmative Action Office, the Judicial Affairs Office, and the University
Police all have personnel who will work with you to explain complaint processes
and explore options most suited to your own needs.
HOW CAN I AVOID
OTHER FORMS OF SEXUAL DISCRIMINATION?
Sexual harassment is
a very damaging form of sex discrimination: it is demeaning, insulting, and
embarrassing; it can destroy opportunities, threaten careers, and ruin lives.
Publishing this information sheet may help stop sex discrimination in its most
blatant and deliberate manifestation, but its more subtle forms will persist as
long as demeaning attitudes toward individuals, especially women, remain
unchanged. Unlike overt acts of sexual harassment, most gender-biased attitudes
are unconscious, and the discriminatory behavior resulting from them is normally
non-intentional. Intentional or not, however, such behavior--like sexual
harassment itself--serves to belittle women and to deny their full participation
in the rights and privileges of employment and education. While the following
suggestions, provided by the Women's Studies Program Committee at California
State University, Northridge, are directed toward eliminating sex discrimination
in the classroom, they may be modified to address the treatment of women in
making general statements about women--as with any other subject--be sure
that what you say is accurately based on reliable information. Avoid using
derogatory terms or stereotypic generalizations, such as "Older women
don't belong in college," or "Women can't think
"humor" or gratuitous remarks that demean or trivialize women,
just as you would avoid remarks that demean or belittle people because of
their race, religion, or physical characteristics.
as much as possible using generic masculine terms to refer to people of both
sexes. Continual use of the generic "he" or "man" evokes
primarily masculine images and renders women peripheral or invisible.
giving examples, try to avoid sexist stereotypes, such as making all
authority figures men and all subordinates women.
course material which does not ignore or deprecate women or use sexist
your behavior toward men and women to ensure that you are treating them in
the same manner.
WHERE CAN I GO FOR
MORE INFORMATION, ADVICE AND/OR ASSISTANCE?
Assault Hotline - 204-1613
list of Sexual Harassment Ombudsperson Appointments for 2000-2001 can be found
Assault Counseling and Education (SACE) - 215 204 7276 -
Edited by: Ellen H.
Badger, Director, International Student & Scholar Services
Francine Montemurro, Director of
Affirmative Action and University Ombudsman
Original version of
this publication was co-authored by Ellen H. Badger and Marguerite Allington,
formerly the Assistant to the President for Affirmative Action.
State University of
New York at Binghamton, Box 6000 Binghamton, N.Y 13902-6000