Harassment is unwanted conduct which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual's dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. Harassment may occur physically, verbally or non-verbally and it can be intentional or unintentional. It also includes treating someone less favourably because they have submitted or refused to submit to such behaviour in the past.

Harassment can happen to anyone, but is often relates to a protected characteristic.  Protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010 include: age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy or maternity, race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation. The University believes that harassment is unacceptable even if it does not fall within any of these categories.

Harassment may include, for example:

●      unwanted physical conduct including touching, pinching, pushing, grabbing, brushing past someone, invading their personal space and more serious forms of physical or sexual assault

●      offensive or intimidating comments or gestures, or insensitive jokes or pranks

●      mocking, mimicking or belittling a person’s disability, gender or race.

●      racist, sexist, homophobic, ableist or ageist jokes, or derogatory or stereotypical remarks about a particular ethnic or religious group or gender

●      outing or threatening to out someone as gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans

●      ignoring or shunning someone, for example, by deliberately excluding them from a conversation or a social activity.

A person may be harassed even if they were not the intended "target". For example, a person may be harassed by racist jokes about a different ethnic group if they create an offensive environment.

Street harassment

Street harassment is when harassment such as unwanted gestures, comments or acts occur on the street or in similar public places. It predominantly affects women and non-binary people, and is a form of SGBV (Sexual and Gender Based Violence), but can happen to anyone.

Street harassment may include some of the following unwanted behaviours:
  • Comments, requests, and demands
  • Commenting on physical appearance, such as someone’s body or the clothing they’re wearing
  • Shouting derogatory comments
  • Continuing to talk to someone after they have asked to be left alone
  • Flashing
  • Following or stalking
  • Groping
  • Intentionally invading personal space or blocking the way
  • Persistent requests for someone’s name, number, or other information
  • Sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic slurs, or any comments insulting or demeaning an aspect of someone’s identity
  • Showing pornographic images without someone’s consent
  • Staring
  • Taking a photo of someone without their consent
  • Telling someone to smile
  • Up-skirting, which is taking a photo up a skirt or dress without that person’s permission
  • Using a mirror to look up someone’s skirt or dress without their permission
  • Whistling

In 2019, the UK government recognised Street Harassment as a form of gender based violence. In February 2022, Our Streets Now reported that 40% of students surveyed had experienced street harassment in some form. In 2016 End Violence Against Women Coalition commissioned YouGov to conduct the first national poll on street harassment. It found that 64% of women of all ages have experienced unwanted sexual harassment in public places. Additionally, 35% of women had experienced unwanted sexual touching. 85% of women ages 18-24 had faced sexual harassment in public spaces and 45% had experienced unwanted sexual touching. 

A study of 93,000 LGBTQ individuals conducted in the EU observed that 47% of respondents felt personally discriminated against for their sexual orientation. Almost half of the respondents avoided public places and two-thirds avoided holding hands in public. More than four-fifths of all respondents said they commonly heard casual jokes about LGBTQ community. 

In January 2023, a survey and report, commissioned by Crimestoppers found that more than a third (38%) of respondees have been followed and nearly a quarter (23%) have witnessed flashing/genital exposure. Whilst the largest group of perpetrators were strangers, they were closely followed by classmates during their younger years, then acquaintances and colleagues in later life.

Neighbourhood Watch reports that women of colour experience not only higher rates of public sexual harassment, but the type of harassment is often more targeted and more damaging. Racial language is coupled with sexist remarks.  

The March 2022 ONS Survey reported that disabled people consistently felt less safe  than non-disabled people in all settings.


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