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10 Signs That You Are Sexually Harassing Someone


With recent events in the news, people are beginning to question what specific behaviors constitute harassment. It’s very important to respect the boundaries of other people, especially sexual boundaries. Sexual harassment is defined as “uninvited and unwelcome verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature.” In addition, harassment is the act of continuing said action despite knowing the receiver does not welcome the behavior.

Unfortunately, it can be unclear sometimes whether or not you are harassing someone, so we’ve compiled a list of ten ways to tell if you are or not.

1.  They are not answering you.

This is the most common way to tell if someone is uninterested in talking to you.

If you are yelling out of your car window at a person who is pretending you are not there, you’re most likely harassing them.

2. They ask you to leave them alone.

Also a pretty common indicator of harassment is when the person feels the need to move beyond subtle cues and flat out tell you to leave them alone. Time to move on.

3. They are at work.

If you go to someone’s workplace and make sexual advances in an environment where they are required to be nice to you, odds are they are not interested and you’re just making it hard for them to get their job done.

4. They change the subject when you make sexual advances.

Maybe you have a friend or classmate who you flirt with from time to time. If this person never reciprocates flirting, changes the topic or avoids answering your attempts at flirting, they aren’t interested and may be too nice to tell you that you’re making them uncomfortable.

5. You are restricting them from leaving the situation.

If you follow someone, walk in front of them, or block them in somewhere, you are forcing them to engage in the behavior with you against their will – which is harassment. Never hold someone against their will.

6. Catcalling.

Catcalling is not flattering, and it’s often embarrassing and demeaning for the receiver. Don’t do it.

7. Making physical advances toward someone who is distancing themselves from you

For example, if you put your arm around someone’s shoulder at a party, and they shrug you off, that is not an invitation to try again or otherwise touch them. Many people feel strongly about personal space and you need to respect that.

8. Interfering in a relationship.

If you know someone is in a relationship, sexual advances toward them are sexual harassment. If they have a significant other, they do not want to engage in that kind of behavior with you, and surely you would not want someone harassing your significant other if you were in a relationship, too.

Don’t be that person.

9. They’re just not into you.

If you try to talk to someone and they seem distracted, look down at their phone while you talk, show negative body language, or give really superficial conversation, they probably aren’t interested in you. This isn’t a challenge to get them to like you, so if you notice any of the negative behaviors, don’t pressure them into talking to you.  

10. You’re at a position of authority to them.

A common theme in the recent events in Hollywood about sexual harassment involve an authority figure abusing their position and targeting people who work under them. There’s nothing wrong with dating someone who is under your authority, maybe dating your club president or the coach on your intramural soccer team. There’s only an issue when you use that authority to sexually pressure them abuse the power. For example, saying, “Go on a date with me, and I’ll let you see the e-board application before everyone else,” is wrong and it’s a form of exploitative harassment.

Harassment comes in many forms, and each instance in situationally specific. Overall, do your best to be aware of social cues, body language and how you would feel if someone treated you the way you are treating others. And if you see a friend sexually harassing someone, speak up. Pull them aside privately and tell them they need to reevaluate their behavior. Also, if you see someone being harassed, try your best to get them out of the situation without putting anyone in harm’s way.

Let’s make UConn a safe place for everyone.

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Chelsea is a senior undergraduate at the University of Connecticut. She is pursuing a degree in Digital Media & Design with a concentration in business strategies, as well as a minor in Communications. She holds one of the Marketing & Design chairs for her school's chapter of Her Campus. 
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