Sexual harassment

What is is? Sexual harassment is unwelcome behaviour of a sexual nature. It is not about fun or friendship, it’s about the abuse of power. Since there is no single definition, the test is how the recipient feels about the behaviour.

The vast majority of complaints of sexual harassment have been by women against men. It has been estimated that 50% of women in employment are affected by such harassment. It doesn’t only happen to women in offices or those employed with large groups of men, but to women in every occupation, of every age group, and from every community.

If you feel you are being harassed, you may want to have a look at CUSU’s Sexual Harassment page.

Forms of sexual harassment

  • Verbal,
  • Comments about appearance, body or clothes,
  • Indecent remarks,
  • Questions or comments about your sex life,
  • Requests for sexual favours,
  • Sexual demands made by someone of the opposite sex, or by someone of your own sex,
  • Promises or threats concerning a person’s employment conditions in return for sexual favours,
  • Looking or staring at a person’s body,
  • Display of sexually explicit material such as calendars, pin–ups or magazines,
  • Physically touching, pinching, caressing, kissing or hugging,
  • Sexual assault,
  • Rape.

Sexual assault and some forms of harassment can actually be criminal offences, in which case you could report them to the police.

Sexual harassment and the law

The law makes it clear that sexual harassment is definitely not acceptable. Whilst there is no strict definition of harassment in statute, you have a legal right not to be sexually harassed at work or at University, thanks to the Sex Discrimination Act, which makes it unlawful to treat women (or men) less favourably because of their sex.

Corpus Christi College’s policy on sexual harassment

The College is a community that can only function on the basis of mutual respect of its members. Derogatory behaviour towards any member will not be tolerated.

Sexual harassment and religious or racial abuse are serious infringements of the standard of behaviour expected of junior members, Fellows and College staff. Any individual who considers someone’s behaviour to fall into one or more of these categories should not hesitate to discuss it confidentially with any Tutor, the Chaplain, or the JCR or MCR Welfare Officers.

Abusive behaviour may be intended or not. Once brought to the attention of any of the above officers, steps can be taken by the officer concerned to resolve the problem. However, the matter may also be referred to the Dean who can exercise his or her disciplinary power to enforce acceptable behaviour or, if appropriate, refer it to the Disciplinary Tribunal. The Governing Body is ultimately responsible for discipline of both junior and senior members of the College.

Neither the University, nor any of its Colleges, condones sexual harassment or religious or racial abuse. A complaint about the behaviour of someone outside the College should be taken to one of the above officers who will contact relevant authorities in other institutions.

Please see the College website for information on the College’s complaints procedure.

The University of Cambridge’s policy on sexual harassment

The University is committed to providing a safe environment for all, free from discrimination, bullying, and harassment. You are never expected to tolerate any form of harassment and can seek support and advice from a number of sources if you do feel threatened or harassed.

The University has a clear policy on harassment, and any complaints will be investigated thoroughly. By taking action early we can minimise the harmful effects. Don’t be afraid of contacting the police. Contact will be treated in confidence and you can seek advice without officially reporting a problem if you wish.

For information on the University procedures for reporting sexual harassment, see the University’s policy on sexual harassment: