Sexual harassment is ‘unwanted conduct of a sexual nature’; it has the purpose or effect of violating someone’s dignity and can cause the victim to feel intimidated and humiliated. Sexual harassment can happen on and offline and can include:
- sexual jokes or provocation
- sexual comments, including sexualised nicknames, sexual remarks about appearance, and personal or anecdotal sexual stories
- deliberately brushing up against someone
- non-consensual display or sharing of sexual drawings or photos
- the consensual or non-consensual sharing of nudes or semi-nudes, as when this material depicts or is exchanged between under-18s, it is illegal
- sharing any unwanted explicit content, such as pornography
- sexualised online bullying or unwanted messages on social media
- sexual exploitation, coercion, and threats via messaging or social media.
A 2021 YouGov survey carried out by UN Women UK found that 97% of women aged 18-24 have been sexually harassed and that only 4% of women report incidents of sexual harassment, while an overwhelming 96% remain dubious about the UK authorities’ capacity to handle an incident like this. Around 45% of the women who would not report sexual harassment in the UK say that it is because nothing would really change.
The law on sexual harassment
The Equality Act 2010 protects people against sexual harassment and harassment related to ‘protected characteristics’, for example a person’s sex.
Sexual harassment is prohibited in all workplace contexts and educational settings. Employers and education providers must do all that they reasonably can to protect their staff and learners from sexual harassment and take steps to prevent it happening. There can be an overlap between behaviour that constitutes sexual harassment and criminal offences, including sexual assault, indecent exposure, stalking and offensive communications. If you believe that a criminal offence may have been committed, then this should be reported to the police as soon as possible.
What action can I take?
- Seek advice from Manager/Human Resources Department/Trade Union Representative
- Make a formal complaint
- Apprenticeship Training Provider – we encourage learners to report all incidents of sexual harassment to the Designated Safeguarding Lead or a member of the Capella team that you feel comfortable speaking to. All reports will be taken seriously; Sexual harassment is never acceptable and will not be tolerated.