Sexual violence and harassment refer to a broad spectrum of behaviours that cannot be divorced from other types of gender-based violence including intimate partner violence or domestic abuse, coercive and/or controlling behaviour and stalking. The University recognises that sexual violence and harassment can be experienced by any individual, regardless of their identity.
Sexual misconduct is a form of harassment and is unacceptable behaviour of a sexual nature. It can include: sexual harassment; sexual violence; intimate partner violence; sexual assault; grooming; coercion or bullying with sexual elements; sexual invitations and demands; comments; non-verbal communication; creation of atmospheres of discomfort; and promised resources or advancement in exchange for sexual access.
The term ‘sexual harassment’ captures only some of the possible abuses of power that may occur. Sexual misconduct more specifically raises issues of unequal relationships, consent, and the prevention of equal access to education, opportunities and career progression.
Sexual assault is a criminal offence and contrary to UPR EQ10 – Sexual Violence and Harassment. A person commits sexual assault if they intentionally touch another person, the touching is sexual and the person does not consent.
It involves all unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature and ranges from pinching, embracing, groping and kissing, to rape and sexual assault which involves penetration without consent.
Consent is agreeing by choice and having the freedom and capacity to make that choice.
A person is free to make a choice if nothing bad would happen to them if they said no.
Capacity is about whether someone is physically and/or mentally able to make a choice and to understand the consequences of that choice.
Sexual harassment is unwanted and unwelcome words, conduct, or behaviour of a sexual nature that has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, embarrassing, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the recipient. It is a misuse of personal or institutional power and often based on a person’s gender although it is rarely about sexual desire.
For the purpose of this policy whether or not the harasser intended to be offensive is irrelevant. The limit of acceptable behaviour as described by this policy is up to the recipient to decide. A single incident or persistent behaviour can amount to harassment.
Sexual harassment can range from behaviour that stems from obvious to anyone or subtler behaviour less obvious to either the person responsible for the behaviour or to the recipient. Often the impact is not felt or witnessed immediately. The impact may go beyond the recipient to people who see or hear what happens or who try to offer support.
Sexual harassment can include but is not limited to: catcalling, following, making unnecessary and unwanted physical contact, sexual jokes and comments, giving unwelcome personal gifts, wolf-whistling, leering, derogatory comments, unwelcome comments about a person’s body or clothing, unwelcome questions about a person’s sex life and/or sexuality, engaging in unwelcome sexual propositions, invitations and flirtation, making somebody feel uncomfortable through displaying or sharing sexual material. Sexual harassment does not necessarily occur face to face and can be in the form of emails, visual images (such as sexually explicit pictures on walls in a shared environment), social media, telephone, text messages and image based sexual abuse, such as revenge porn and upskirting.
Consent – what is it?
Consent is the agreement by choice where the individual has both the freedom and capacity to make that choice. Consent cannot be assumed based on a previous sexual experience or previously given consent, or from the absence of complaint, and each new sexual act requires a re-confirmation of consent as the foundation of a healthy and respectful sexual relationship. Consent may be withdrawn at any time before or during a sexual act.
Consent to sexual activity may be given to one sort of sexual activity but not another, e.g.to vaginal but not anal sex or penetration with conditions, such as wearing a condom.
Consent can be withdrawn at any time during sexual activity and each time activity occurs. Someone consents to vaginal, anal or oral penetration only if they agree by choice to that penetration and they have the freedom and capacity to make that choice. Further information about consent can be found here: Rape Crisis England & Wales - Sexual consent.
If you think you have been the target of sexual misconduct, assault or harassment, it may be hard to know what to do or how to feel. What happened was not your fault. What you do next is your choice.