Sexual harassment is any behaviour or communication directed at someone with the intention of attacking their sexuality, sexual identity, or sense of safety. Unlike sexual assault, sexual harassment is not physical. Those who experience sexual harassment may feel uncomfortable, humiliated, and/or threatened.
Sexual harassment is not illegal in Canada; instead it is considered a human rights violation. Depending on where the harassment takes place, a complaint can be reported with the appropriate human rights organization (e.g., federal or provincial Human Rights Commissions, workplace Human Resources offices, university Human Rights offices).
Examples of sexual harassment include, but are not limited to:
- Being “hit on” while walking down the street (cat-calling and wolf-whistling).
- Telling sexual jokes when it makes others uncomfortable.
- Unwanted comments or questions to a person about their sex life.
- Sending unwanted sexual photos.
- Repeatedly requesting a date when a person has already refused.
- Unwanted sexually suggestive looks or gestures.
- An unwanted sexual e-mail, text message, or Facebook message.
The key point in all these examples is that they are unwanted sexual interactions.
Just like in sexual assault, there is no consent in sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment can happen anywhere: on the street, at school, in the workplace. It is a common occurrence. 87% of women in Canada have reported being a victim of sexual harassment .