What is harassment?

Harassment is a form of discrimination. According to the legislation, harassment is behaviour that is inappropriate or violates another person’s dignity. This might involve someone saying or exhibiting behaviour that makes you feel upset, insulted, threatened or ill-treated.
Harassment is behaviour that is unwelcome to the person subjected to it. The same behaviour may be perceived as harassment by one person whereas another person may not be bothered by it. There does not have to be any intention to insult or ill-treat a person for it to constitute harassment. 

Here are some examples:
  • To ridicule or joke about a person or group based on their sexual orientation.
  • To make derogatory comments about a person or group based on their ethnicity.
  • To draw others’ attention to a person’s disability in a way that they experience as negative.
  • To marginalise or use other dominance techniques against a person due to their age. 

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is harassment of a sexual nature. This may, for example, be unwelcome physical contact, comments, jokes, proposals, glances or images of a sexual nature. Anyone can be subjected to sexual harassment, whatever their gender identity or sexual orientation might be.

Here are some examples:
  • To look or whistle at a person in a way that they find unpleasant.
  • To comment on a person’s body in a way that they find unpleasant.
  • To touch a person in a way that they find unpleasant.
  • To call someone something that is related to sex that makes them feel uncomfortable.​
  • To make sexual advances that the person does not welcome.
  • To spread rumours about a person relating to sex or their body.
  • To send messages, images or videos relating to sex that the person does not wish to receive.
  • To spread images of a person who does not want them spread.
Harassment may also be digital. 

As the person subjected to it, you get to define what you experienced

As the person subjected to it, you get to decide what is unwelcome or uncomfortable for you. Sometimes it is difficult to know immediately whether something is OK. If you feel ill-treated in any way, trust your feelings and tell someone about it. Do not assume that you should need to tolerate things that you feel are difficult to deal with, such as sexist jokes or jargon.

It is never your fault if you are subjected to harassment

It is never your fault if you are subjected to harassment – nobody has the right to harass you, no matter what clothes you wear, what your life choices are or what relationship you have with the person harassing you. It is very common for people who have been subjected to harassment to avoid reporting it or speaking out about it. Often this is due to worry that the incident feels too trivial, anxiety about needing to confront the offender and concern as to how this is going to affect the working or study environment. Another reason is lack of confidence that the report will achieve anything.
If you choose to speak out about it, we can deal with it, take action and change campus culture so that fewer people will be subjected to harassment in the future. You are probably not the only person who has been ill-treated, so you can help towards putting a stop to the harassment. 

Intention and values

The aim of the Swedish Discrimination Act is to protect individuals from ill-treatment, but it does not regulate people’s values or opinions. Chalmers’ zero tolerance of discrimination and harassment is not about limiting people’s values but exists rather to protect individuals from discriminatory acts. In other words, we may think and believe what we want, but what the legislation prohibits, and Chalmers does not tolerate, are acts where people are treated unfairly or offensively due to any of the grounds of discrimination. 

Speak out 

There does not have to be an aim or deliberate intention for an incident to count as discrimination. Behaviour being experienced as negative by the person subjected to it may also be due to ignorance or misunderstanding. The person doing the harassing needs to understand how their action is perceived to give rise to harassment or sexual harassment. 
It is therefore important that, if you feel harassed, you tell the person who is harassing you that their behaviour is unpleasant and unwelcome. In certain situations, it is so clear that the behaviour is unwelcome and unpleasant that there is no requirement for this to be pointed out.

If someone tells you that they perceive your behaviour as offensive, it is important to listen and try to understand. Do not become defensive – it is important to think about how others perceive what we say and do, and there is always something to be learned when someone says that a particular behaviour is not acceptable.

Page manager Published: Fri 12 Nov 2021.