Harassment and Sexual Harassment

Someone who experiences harassment can feel anxious, trapped and confused. Many people even question whether what happened to them was harassment. If you have been harassed, or if someone shares with you that they have been harassed, it can be hard to know what to do next. We are here to support you. You are not alone.

What is harassment?

Harassment is unwelcome conduct directed at a person because of their identity. The conduct can range from annoying to violent. Sometimes harassment is severe, persistent or pervasive enough to create an intimidating, hostile or offensive work or learning environment; it can interfere with an individual’s work or academic performance. Harassment can happen in person, by telephone or online.

Harassers can be students, co-workers, supervisors, current or former intimate partners, family members, acquaintances or strangers.

Harassment affects people of all races, genders, sexual orientations, social classes, ages and abilities.

What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or other unwelcome verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment can include gender discrimination, which conveys hostility, exclusion or second-class status about members of a gender.

Sexual harassers can be students, co-workers, supervisors, current or former intimate partners, family members, acquaintances or strangers.

Sexual harassment affects people of all races, genders, sexual orientations, social classes, ages and abilities.

Know the signs

Someone who’s being harassed may:

  • Look uncomfortable or anxious in the company of another individual
  • Avoid being alone or placed on academic or work assignments with another individual
  • Ask for a sudden change in classroom or workplace setting
  • Disengage from projects they were very involved in
  • Suddenly change their social media usage or online visibility

Harassers may:

  • Not respect others’ boundaries or ask intrusive personal questions
  • Make unwanted comments of a sexual nature
  • Make offensive comments about someone’s sex or gender
  • Not respect personal space
  • Touch others in an unwelcome and intimate way
  • Create fake online accounts to harass others

Online harassment and safety tips

There are many kinds of online harassment, from the annoying (rude comments made by online trolls), to the invasive (doxing), to the potentially dangerous and traumatic (cyberstalking, threats of violence, and beyond). No matter your online presence or actions, it is never your fault if you’re the target of online harassment.

If you are experiencing online behaviors that raise safety concerns, reach out to SafeCampus to consult about your options.

Additional safety tips:


  • Develop a strategy for how to interact and what you want to share online.
  • Make informed decisions about the privacy of your identity, location, affiliations and actions.
  • Review what information is available about you online.
  • Be aware of the open aspects of online groups, forums and comment sections.


  • Review and consider modifying privacy preferences on devices, browsers and apps.
  • Control who can view your profile, contact information and posts.
  • Review tagging capabilities on social media platforms.
  • Limit location services to the apps and friends you want to track you.


  • Password lock all devices.
  • Secure confidential and personal information on devices.
  • Use two-factor authentication (2FA) for accounts.
  • Review good password practices — don’t reuse passwords for multiple accounts.
  • Remember: Data sent over public wireless networks, as well as information on public computers and kiosks, may be accessed by others.

Supporting a friend or colleague

Many individuals turn to someone they trust when they need support. Your response when a friend or colleague shares with you that they are being harassed is significant in helping them feel supported. It may also impact whether they choose to seek additional help. Please consider taking these steps when someone discloses to you:

  • Validate: Believe them and thank them for sharing with you.
  • Listen: Ask how you can help.
  • Connect: Share with them that there are resources on campus to support them.
  • Consult: Call SafeCampus to determine options or share safety concerns.
  • Self-care: Take care of yourself and be aware of your own feelings.

To learn more about supporting a friend or colleague visit UW How to Help a Friend.

UW Resources and confidential advocates

The University of Washington offers free confidential advocacy for students and employees affected by sexual harassment and related experiences. Advocates can help you learn about available resources, your rights and reporting options. They can support you in making a holistic plan for managing and reducing the impact of your experience.

Meeting with an advocate will not automatically trigger any kind of investigation by the University or the police.

Learn more about Title IX, additional resources and how an advocate can support you at the UW Sexual Assault Resources and Advocacy site.

If you are aware of sexual harassment

All UW staff, faculty, and students, as well as members of the public, are encouraged to share concerns related to sexual harassment, sexual assault, and other forms of sex- and gender-based violence and harassment through the online Title IX reporting form. When you make a report you will be connected with a Title IX Case Manager.

Learn more about who is required to report and who is encouraged to support on the employee reporting expectations page.

If you are a student and wondering how to support a friend, roommate, or peer please visit UW How to Help a Friend or call SafeCampus for support.

Reporting Options

Before requesting an investigation, you may wish to speak to a confidential advocate. A confidential advocate can help you consider your reporting options and explain what to expect if you decide to submit a formal complaint to the University of Washington. Advocates can also explain and help facilitate supportive measures and other resources. Visit the Title IX Support & Help page for more information.

The University of Washington has several designated offices responsible for responding to, investigating, and resolving complaints. Please visit the Title IX Reporting Options page to learn more.

Protection orders

Please visit our protection orders page to learn what a protection order is and to consider whether you would like to seek one for yourself.