Harassment and sexual harassment

Individuals who experience harassment can feel anxious, trapped and confused. Many individuals even question if what happened to them was harassment. If you have been harassed or someone shares with you that they have been harassed, it can be hard to determine what to do next. We are here to support you. Know that 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 and interferes with an individual’s work or academic performance. Harassment can happen in person 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

Individuals who are 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 everything in-between). No matter your online presence or actions, it is never your fault if you are the target of online harassment.

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

Additional safety tips include:


  • 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.
  • Utilize 2-step authentication for accounts.
  • Review good password practices — don’t reuse passwords for different 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 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.
    To learn more about validating strategies, see the Joyful Heart Foundations article on showing survivors support.
  • 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 any safety concerns.
  • Self-care: Take care of yourself and be aware of your own feelings.

Confidential campus advocates

The University of Washington offers free confidential advocacy for students and employees affected by sexual harassment and other related experiences. Advocates can help you learn about resources that are available to you, your rights and reporting options. Additionally, 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 how an advocate can support you and how to contact them at the UW Sexual Assault Resources and Advocacy site.

Sexual harassment & Title IX

  • Sexual harassment may be a form of sexual misconduct and a violation of Title IX.
  • If you have experienced sexual harassment, learn more about Title IX and additional campus resources, such as confidential advocates, by visiting the UW Sexual Assault Resources page.
  • If you are a UW student employee, staff or faculty member who has received a disclosure, visit UW’s Title IX Protocol page to learn what to do next.

Protection Orders

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