Sexual Harassment

Photo of front of Sexual Harassment brochure with woman whispering to man Download PDF

Sexual harassment is any unwelcome behaviour of a sexual nature that makes you feel offended, humiliated or intimidated.

Here are some examples of behaviour that might be sexual harassment:

  • Sexually suggestive comments or jokes
  • Wolf whistling or sexual gestures
  • Pinching, touching or hugging
  • Sending sexually offensive material by email, fax, telephone or social media
  • Repeated requests to go out on dates
  • Requests for sex
  • Intrusive questions about your personal life
  • Displaying pictures, magazines or screen savers of a sexual nature

Anyone can experience sexual harassment. It does not matter if the person harassing you is the same gender as you, it is still unlawful.

It also does not have to happen repeatedly or continuously to be sexual harassment, but it must be unwanted. Sexual harassment must occur in an area of public life for the Commission to be able to accept a complaint. There are many areas of public life, including:

  • At work (including when you are applying for a job), even if you are a volunteer
  • At school, CIT or university
  • When you are accessing public places or services (like going to the cinema, eating at a restaurant, visiting the pool or using a tradesman)
  • When you are accessing accommodation (like renting a property or a room)
  • When you are joining a club

If you think you might have been sexually harassed and you’d like more information, you can call the ACT Human Rights Commission to talk about your rights.

What is not sexual harassment?

The behaviour must be unwelcome, otherwise it is not unlawful. Mutual attraction, flirtation or relationships that you consent to are not sexual harassment.

However, even if you participate in some jokes, flirtation or sexual behaviour yourself, you are still entitled to draw the
line when you feel uncomfortable.

Examples

“I work behind a bar, and every night I have customers making sexual comments to me. I told my boss that I am uncomfortable with this but he said it was my job to make myself attractive and agreeable to customers.”

“My landlord has said the will put my rent up if I do not sleep with her.

“I have stopped going to lectures because there is a girl who always sits near me and tries to touch me. She also sends me sexual messages on Facebook, even though I have asked her to stop.”

“The owner of my local shop always asks me if I need to buy condoms. It makes me feel so uncomfortable I can’t shop there anymore.”

“When I applied for a job on a construction site, the man interviewing me said I could have the job if I would be able to handle all the men on the site looking at my breasts while I worked.”