What is Sexual Harassment?

What is Sexual Harassment?


What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is a huge problem in Australian workplaces. According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, more than 1 in 4 of Australian women, and more than 1 in 15 Australian men, say they have been sexually harassed at work. If you’ve experienced sexual harassment, often you can feel disempowered and isolated, like your employer doesn’t care and sees the victim as the problem. We care, and we are here to help you break the silence and stand up for your rights.

Sexual harassment is generally defined as unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, sexual advances, or requests for sexual favours, in circumstances in which a reasonable person in the perpetrator’s position, having regard to all the circumstances, would have anticipated the possibility that the person harassed would be offended, humiliated or intimidated. You are protected from sexual harassment in the workplace, as a contract worker, in the provision of goods and services, in the provision of education, and in certain other contexts.

Sexual harassment is the ultimate theft of your autonomy and self-worth, if not stopped, it can leave you emotionally scarred for the rest of your life.

This video helps you understand better what sexual harassment is.

Sexual harassment is not always clear-cut. Some behaviour is obviously sexual harassment, like rape or indecent assault. Other behaviour is more subtle, but can be sexual harassment. Some examples of unwelcome behaviour which may be sexual harassment include:

  • Questions and comments about your sex life,
  • Vulgar comments about your appearance,
  • Repetitive requests for dates or sexual favours after you have already said no,
  • Displays of pornographic material, via photos, internet sites, emails, videos,
  • Touching, groping, pinching, hugging,
  • Leering at your body,
  • Sexual gestures,
  • Sexual remarks made via email, text message, or facebook,
  • Insulting and demeaning banter,
  • A perpetrator using his or her position of authority to offer rewards or threaten to influence your career on the basis of sexual favours,
  • Coercion into entering into a sexual relationship,
  • Sexual comments made to other employees in the workplace within your hearing – a “boys club” atmosphere,
  • Sex jokes shared verbally, via email or text message, in circumstances where you have made it clear that you find this inappropriate,

Sexual harassment can happen to anyone, whether you’re a Merchant Banker or a Retail Assistant, whether you are male, female or intersex. Similarly, a perpetrator could be anyone, a CEO or a Forklift driver, any age, any sex. No matter what your circumstances are, you have the right to be free from sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment is a powerful way for the perpetrator to demoralise and control their victim. The perpetrator will exploit a power imbalance to take advantage of their victim.

Many people feel ashamed by what has happened or blame themselves, they become withdrawn and stressed, afraid to tackle taboos around reporting sexual harassment. Sometimes there is an implicit (or explicit) message that if you don’t go along with the perpetrator’s behaviour, you will suffer worse harassment or intimidation.

Often, a victim fears retaliation for speaking up, such as escalation of harassment, denial of promotions or salary raises, becoming conspicuous amongst colleagues, baseless allegations of poor performance or conduct, and even dismissal.

Sexual Harassment AWDRWe can help!

Sexual Harassment Claims

If you have been the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, do not be afraid to stand up for yourself, feel empowered, and take action today! You are not to blame for what has happened to you, it is not your fault. You don’t have to just put up with it. Our experienced representatives will represent you with compassion and integrity.

We have a proven track record of achieving good outcomes as quickly as possible. We will give you honest advice on how best to approach your claim, and what kind of outcomes you can expect. We know that every situation is different, so we tailor-make a strategy to get the best outcome for you. We’re not afraid of big companies or intimidated by large law firms. We pride ourselves on offering affordable representation, often on a no win no fee (contingency) basis.

Here’s what some of our clients have said at the conclusion of their sexual harassment cases:

“Many thanks again for your great support and results”
“I was sexually harassed for years, A Whole New Approach Pty Ltd made them stop discriminating against me and I got a settlement.”

Jessica’s Story

Jessica* was a successful 34 year old professional, looking for a change in career direction. When she was offered a job working for a multi-national company managing projects, she was really excited to start in a new team. Jessica quickly realised she was one of only a handful of women in management. Within days of starting her job, Jessica was subjected to persistent questions from her male colleagues about what was “wrong” with her because she was unmarried, comments that she must be good at oral sex, and vulgar remarks about her physical appearance and desirability. Jessica’s colleagues displayed pornographic photos in the workplace, and watched pornographic videos on work computers; they talked about their sex lives in graphic detail.

Jessica tried to address workplace problems directly with her manager and her colleagues, but nothing changed. Jessica felt that she just had to put up with it or she may lose her job. Jessica’s manager started to criticise her performance, and said that women often don’t have the authority that you need to be project managers. Jessica became increasingly anxious and dreaded going to work every morning, she lost sleep and started to wear unflattering clothes. She reported feeling powerless and fatigued. She withdrew from family and friends, and eventually had to seek medical help for her anxiety.

Jessica contacted A Whole New Approach Australian Workplace and Discrimination Representatives about her workplace situation. We gathered the facts of Jessica’s case, helped her draft a statement, and prepared the relevant documents for her claim. We submitted her claim to the relevant Commission, and contacted her employer directly. Via a rapid negotiation, we resolved Jessica’s workplace situation and helped her move on with life. She now feels much more optimistic about the future and is starting to feel more independent and empowered.

*name changed for confidentiality reasons

Commissions and Tribunals

We may be able to represent you in bringing a sexual harassment case to one of the following authorities:

  • Australian Human Rights Commission
  • ACT Human Rights Commission
  • Anti-Discrimination Board of New South Wales
  • Anti-Discrimination Commission of Queensland
  • Equal Opportunity Commission Western Australia
  • Northern Territory Anti-Discrimination Commission
  • Office of the Anti-Discrimination Commission (Tasmania)
  • South Australia Equal Opportunity Commission
  • Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission

If you want to know whether the events in your workplace or educational institution are sexual harassment, give us a call and we’ll be happy to discuss the matter with you. If you want to take action, call one of our representatives today:

TOLL FREE 1800 333 666

EMERGENCY 24 HOURS 0421 634 370

These are some articles about sexual harassment cases: