Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is any behaviour or communication directed at someone with the intention of attacking their sexuality, sexual identity, or sense of safety. 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, such as the Canadian Human Rights Commission (other examples include federal or provincial Human Rights Commissions, workplace Human Resources offices, and university Human Rights offices).
Examples of sexual harassment include, but are not limited to:

  • 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
  • Street harassment, e.g. being whistled at or having offensive things shouted at you while walking down the street (for more on street harassment, see Hollaback Alberta)

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, at home, or in the workplace. It is a common occurrence. 87% of women in Canada have reported being a victim of sexual harassment [1].

[1] Statistics Canada: Violence Against Women Survey, Ottawa: November, 1993.