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What is Sexual Harassment and How Can You Handle It?

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at CWU chapter.

Sexual harassment is one of the major issues facing our society today, especially since many people including both men and women have come forward with allegations of it occurring in the workplace. Unfortunately, there are many people who also have had difficulty coming forward about their experiences with sexual harassment. When faced with sexual harassment, it is incredibly beneficial that one develops the skills that will help them if they are ever in this type of situation. From reporting the behavior to using self-defense as needed, there are a variety of ways to handle sexual harassment. First, let’s discuss what forms sexual harassment may take and some misconceptions that surround it.

Sexual Harassment

As defined by the blog “Law Truly”, sexual harassment refers to the “unwelcome sexual advances, physical contact, unsolicited request for sexual favors, and other such physical or verbal contact, of sexual nature, that makes a person feel offended, violated or humilated.” There is a myriad of ways in which sexual harassment can be manifested through, including but not limited to, inappropriate touching, sexual favors, making sexual comments about someone’s physical appearance or body parts, and pressuring someone into disclosing their sexual activity. 

Sexual harassment has been present in both the university and workplace settings as those in authoritative positions including supervisors, managers, coworkers, athletic coaches and even professors have abused their authority by sexually harassing their colleagues, employees and students. It is important that sexual harassment is recognized as a common issue in today’s workplace and universities since it will help our society become better the more it is recognized. 


  1. Only Women Are Sexually Harassed

Although it may be assumed that those who fall victim to sexual harassment are only women, it actually happens to both genders and those who identify as non-binary or as a part of the LGBTQ+ community. Additionally, sexual harassment is not just between a man and a woman, it is also happening between those of the same sex, as well as those who are non-binary. 

  1. If it is a Joke, Then it is Not Sexual Harassment

If a joke makes a mockery out of someone’s physical appearance or body type in a way that is sexually explicit and offensive, then it is a form of sexual harassment since it is degrading to one’s physical appearance and could be harmful to the person who the joke is directed at. Although the joke’s intent may be for humorous purposes, it is important to consider both the appropriateness of a joke and the impact it may have on a person’s mentality.

  1. There Must Be a Power Difference Between the Victim and the Harasser

While many forms of sexual harassment occur between someone of authoritative power and someone who is under them, sexual harassment may also occur between those who have an equal distribution of power as well. So there does not have to be any power difference between the harasser and the victim in order for sexual harassment to happen.

Ways to Defend agaisnt sexual harassment

  1. Say “No!”

Being assertive when you experience a form of sexual harassment is a great way to stand up for yourself as you are communicating to the other person that their behavior is unwanted and intolerable. Although saying “No!” will show the harasser that you are assertive, the harasser may still persist. In this case, it’s necessary that you should be ready to take further action if the harassment continues. 

  1. Report the Harassment 

If the harassment continues or even if it happens once, you should report it to the appropriate authorities such as the supervisor or manager of the company you work at, the president of your university, your university’s hotline, and so on. Reporting sexual harassment not only will inform the company you work at or your university of the incident but may also create some much-needed discussion on how your company or university can work to prevent it in the future and even how it can be recognized. Examples of this may include a change in job training or new policies implemented to prevent any form of sexual harassment later on. 

  1. Use Self-Defense If Needed

If you end up in a situation where sexual harassment escalates into sexual assault, self-defense strategies may become necessary. Ways in which you can implement self-defense mechanisms include using the sharpest points of your body (knees and elbows) to get the harasser off of you, and even pushing the harasser may work as you are working to get out of the situation safely.

Developing self-defense skills are necessary as they can benefit you in situations that may call for them. Fortunately, most universities offer courses in self-defense that teach you the necessary skills that will benefit you if you are ever in a situation where you are dealing with sexual harassment. 

If you are ever in a situation where you are sexually harassed, don’t ever hesitate to report the harassment as it may persist if it goes unreported. If you are currently in a situation where you are being sexually harassed, take these skills into consideration as you are reporting the behavior or turning down the sexual advances of your harasser.

Remember you are amazing and you can get through anything. You got this!

XOXO Her Campus 

Hi there! I am third-year student at CWU majoring in psychology with a minor in theatre arts. In my spare time, I enjoy baking, reading, singing, and exercising.