Sexual Harassment

What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:

  • Submission to such conduct is made either an implicit or explicit condition of an individual’s academic, work, living environment or participation in a University community.
  • Submission or rejection of such conduct is used as the basis for a decision that affects an individual’s academic, work, living environment or participation in a University community.
  • The conduct is sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive that it could reasonably be expected to create an intimidating, hostile or offensive learning or working environment, or has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s academic, work, living environment, or participation in a University community.

Federal Laws and UW Policy

Sexual harassment is a form of employment discrimination prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Sexual harassment is a form of sexual discrimination prohibited under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

The University of Washington policy on sexual harassment volume 4 protects the rights and dignity of each individual in the University community.

Types of Sexual Harassment

Generally speaking, there are two types of sexual harassment, “quid pro quo” and hostile environment.

Quid pro quo (meaning “this for that”) sexual harassment occurs when a student submits or rejects conduct of a sexual nature and that affects their involvement in an academic or employment decision or activity. So, for example, if an employee is made to believe that a promotion is likely if the employee goes on a date with the employee’s supervisor, the employee is possibly being subjected to “quid pro quo” sexual harassment.

Hostile environment sexual harassment occurs when unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature creates an intimidating, threatening or abusive environment or is so severe, persistent or pervasive that it affects a person’s ability to participate in a University activity. While a person engaging in harassing behavior most often has some form of power or authority over the person being harassed, that is not always the case. The harasser can be a peer of the person being harassed.

Examples of Sexual Harassment

  • Sexual innuendoes, comments or bantering
  • Intrusive, sexually explicit questions
  • Posting or sending non-consensual sexual images on social media, via text or email
  • Pressure, demands or requests for sexual acts
  • Sexually explicit correspondence: emails, texts, calls or notes.
  • Display of offensive materials: sexually explicit or with graphic content
  • Unwanted physical or sexual advances
  • Threats, bribes, quid pro quo or stalking

Reporting Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment of students is prohibited and can be reported to Title IX. The Health & Wellness Advocate  ( can help students understand their reporting options, assist with safety planning, explore academic advocacy and interim measures and connect students to any additional resources and supports on campus.

Getting Help if You’ve Been Sexually Harassed

Remember that no matter what the circumstances, you are not to blame for what is happening to you. Give yourself permission to do what you need to do to take care of yourself.

Trust your instincts

Don’t downplay the danger. If you feel you are unsafe, you probably are. Take threats seriously

Tell the harasser to stop

Be direct, firm and clear about what type of behavior is unacceptable and that you want it to stop. If the harasser continues the behavior, you have options for reporting it.

Tell someone you trust for support

This could be anyone, so think about who would be the most supportive. This person may be a good listener or be able to provide resource and options.

Contact the Health & Wellness Advocate for support, advocacy and resources

The Health & Wellness Advocate is here to listen and supports students by providing a confidential place to discuss sexual assault, relationship violence, stalking, sexual harassment and related issues. The Health & Wellness Advocate can assist you in reporting and in exploring and arranging for counseling, academic or work changes. Contact for more information.

Keep evidence and a record

When the harasser contacts you, write down the comments, time, date and place. Keep e-mails, phone messages, texts, letters or notes. Ask witnesses to write down what they saw.

Develop a safety plan, if needed

This includes things like deciding who you can call when you need help, changing your daily routine, arranging for a place to stay and using the buddy system. The Health & Wellness Advocate or UW Police Department Crime Victim Advocate can help you create a safety plan.

Report to the police

If you decide to report to the police, you can call the UW Police Department and the police officer will meet you in a location of your choice. You can also contact the Health & Wellness Advocate to review your reporting options. It is your decision to file a report. The harasser may have broken other laws by doing things like assaulting you or stealing or destroying your property.

Seek supportive counseling

You may want help dealing with the anxiety, fear or other feelings the harassment has caused. The Counseling Center and Hall Health Mental Health are resources on campus. The Health & Wellness Advocate ( can also provide referrals to off-campus community services.

Consider reporting to UW

Title IX Policies Against Sexual Harassment

University Complaint Investigation & Resolution Office – UCIRO
Conducts investigations of employee (staff and faculty) who alleged to have committed sexual harassment and other issues.

Consider a protection order

Protection orders are civil court orders that can help protect a victim from a harasser by ordering the person to stop doing threatening acts, to stay away from the places you go and to stop contacting you. There are different types of protection orders depending on the nature of the violence or harassment and the relationship between people.


On Campus



Additional Resources

Health & Wellness is committed to promoting respect, the understanding and appreciation of differences and the constructive expression of ideas. Health & Wellness provides services to all students with respect to their identity, race, color, creed, religion, national origin, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, disability or socioeconomic status.