Sexual Harassment - Counselling Newsletter

Published: 8 Oct 2018

Sexual harassment is defined as any form of unwelcome sexual behaviour that is offensive, humiliating or intimidating and it is against the law. Being sexually harassed affects people in different ways. If you are experiencing harassment, there are many things you can do.

What is sexual harassment? Sexual harassment is any form of unwelcome sexual behaviour that is offensive, humiliating or intimidating. It can be written, verbal or physical, and can occur in person or online. Both men and women can be the victims of sexual harassment. When sexual harassment occurs at work or uni, it may amount to sex discrimination. Sex discrimination happens when you are treated less fairly than another person because of your sex, marital status, or pregnancy.

What does sexual harassment include?                    

  • Unwelcome touching or other physical contact           
  • Displaying rude and offensive material
  • Comments that have sexual meanings          
  • Sexual gestures or body movement
  • Asking for sex or sexual favours                                 
  • Leering and staring                                            
  • Sexual jokes and comments
  • Questions about your sex life
  • Criminal offences such as obscene phone calls, indecent exposure or sexual assault

If you are being sexually harassed you might:                    

  • Feel stressed, anxious or depressed
  • Have physical symptoms of stress such as headaches, back aches, sleep problems
  • Withdraw from social situations
  • Lose confidence and self-esteem
  • Be less productive and unable to concentrate
  • Feel uncomfortable around others
  • Avoid certain people or places

What can you do? No one deserves, or asks, to be sexually harassed. Everyone has the right to work and live in an environment free from harassment, bullying, discrimination and violence. Sexual harassment is illegal (under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984). Things you can do include:

  • Resolving the situation quickly yourself by explaining to the person who is harassing you that their behaviour is unwanted.
  • Make sure you're informed – if you are being harassed at work or uni, find out what the policies and procedures are for preventing and handling sexual harassment.
  • Keep a diary documenting everything that happens, like when it occurred and the names of any people who saw what happened and what you've done to try and stop it.
  • Save any evidence, like text messages or emails. This can help if you make a complaint.
  • Get external information and advice, for example the union representing your industry. These organisations can give you advice on your options and your rights. Some of them can also act on your behalf if you don't feel comfortable pursuing the issue alone. They should also respect your confidentiality; though if you are concerned about this, ask them what their official privacy policy is.
  • Tell someone. Sexual harassment is not something you need to deal with on your own. In the workplace, it might be worth going to talk to the HR manager who will be able to help you decide what to do. You might also want to talk to a trusted friend or family member about what's going on.
  • If the situation continues, you might need to make a formal complaint. In school, uni or the workplace, the person sexually harassing you might be officially warned, and be required to have counselling. If the sexual harassment continues, there might be a mediation process and, if all else fails, the person sexually harassing you might be fired. If you end up having to leave, you might be eligible for outstanding wages and entitlements.

Check out the UNSW website on sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape for further information and referral options; 

If you’re not happy with your university or workplace response to your complaint, you can make a complaint to either the Australian Human Rights Commission or your State/Territory’s Commission. It is free to make a complaint to the commissions; however each state has a different time limit for making a complaint.

Extract from Reach Out:




Back to top