Carnegie Mellon University

Sexual Harassment

Sexual Harassment

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

  1. submission to such conduct is made is implicitly or explicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment or student status, in a course, program or activity; or
  2. submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment or educational decisions affecting such individual, or
  3. such conduct has the purpose or effect of interfering with an individual’s work or educational performance, or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working and/or learning environment, or interfering with one’s ability to participate in or benefit from an educational program or activity.

Source: Carnegie Mellon Policy Against Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault.

It is difficult to accurately estimate the number of people affected by sexual harassment due to differing definitions and low reporting rates.  However, polls suggest that sexual harassment is widespread and pervasive in the United States:

At Work

  • 1 in 4 adult women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.
  • 1 in 10 adult men have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.

In Public

  • 65% of women have experienced sexual harassment on the streets.
  • 25% of men have experienced sexual harassment on the streets.
  • Members of the GLBT community are significantly more likely to experience sexual harassment on the streets than heterosexual men and women.

Online

  • 19% of Americans have witnessed online sexual harassment and 6% have experienced it first hand.
  • Online harassment occurs on social networking sites and apps, in comments sections of websites, in online gaming, via personal email, on discussion sites, and on online dating sites and apps.
  • Those “whose lives are especially entwined with the internet” experience higher rates of online harassment.

 Among College Students

  • More than 60% of students (female and male) reported experiencing sexual harassment while in college. 
  • Students who identify as GLBT report higher levels of harassment than students who identify as heterosexual. 

Sources: ABC News/Washington Post Poll, Workplace Harassment (November 16, 2011), available at: http://www.langerresearch.com/wp-content/uploads/1130a2WorkplaceHarassment.pdf; Stop Street Harassment, “Unsafe and Harassed in Public Spaces: A National Street Harassment Report,” (June 3, 2014), available at: http://www.stopstreetharassment.org/our-work/nationalstudy/; Pew Research Center, “Online Harassment,” (October 2014), available online at: http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/10/22/online-harassment/; C. Hill and E. Silva, “Drawing the Line: Sexual Harassment on Campus,” AAUW Educational Foundation (2005), available online at: www.aauw.org/files/2013/02/drawing-the-line-sexual-harassment-on-campus.pdf

If you or someone you know is being sexually harassed, please contact the Office of Title IX Initiatives (412-268-7125 or tix@andrew.cmu.edu).   We can discuss your options for investigation and resolution, and the support and safety measures that we can offer, including workplace accomodations.

If you have any physical evidence that tends to demonstrate the harassment (photographs, gifts, text messages, voicemail, social media messages, et cetera), try to preserve that evidence.  For example, consider taking screen shots of any texts or social media messages in case they get deleted.

Below are some practical strategies for reducing risk of sexual harassment, but it is important to note that no strategy can fully eliminate the risk of sexual harassment, and that it is never your fault if you are sexual harassed.

  • Respect a person’s wishes related to contact with them.
  • Say “that wasn’t funny” if you hear someone telling an offensive joke.
  • Tell someone if you see or hear of someone exhibiting behavior that is making you uncomfortable.
  • Take a minute to consider the implications of comments, jokes, or stories before sharing them with others.
  • Don’t post sexually explicit material on social media or in public spaces.
  • Don’t send or post pictures of yours or others’ genitalia.
  • Don’t touch someone without their permission.
  • Don’t continue to ask someone out if they  have already declined.