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What is sexual harassment and stalking?

Sexual harassment is any unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature that may cause offense or distress or will intimidate or humiliate a person.

Sexual harassment can take many forms, it can includes but is not limited to:

  • making sexually degrading comments or gestures
  • being stared or leered at
  • unwanted or inappropriate sexual jokes or propositions
  • e-mails, social media or text messages with sexual content
  • unwelcome sexual advances and touching, forms of sexual assault
  • displaying sexually explicit pictures in a shared space, such as at work

Sexual harassment commonly takes place in public, including workplaces, public spaces and schools.

Under the Equality Act 2010¹ it is a criminal offence to cause sexual harassment, alarm or distress by a course of conduct on more than one occasion and conduct can include speech. Putting someone at fear of violence is when someone says or does two or more things that make you fear that violence will be used against you.

The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 created two new offences of stalking. Stalking is not legally defined but section 2A (3) of the Public Harassment Act 1997 lists examples of behaviours. This includes:

(a) following a person
(b) contacting, or attempting to contact, a person by any means
(c) publishing any statement or other material relating or purporting to relate to a person, or purporting to originate from a person
(d) monitoring the use by a person of the internet, email or any other form of electronic communication
(e) loitering in any place (whether public or private)
(f) interfering with any property in the possession of a person
(g) watching or spying on a person²

The Home Office issued guidelines in relation to the stalking offences.

Anyone affected by these forms of violence and abuse should be able to access help and support when they need it and every case should be taken seriously. The Live Fear Free Helpline is a 24 hour helpline for women, children and men experiencing domestic abuse, sexual violence or other forms of violence against women on 0808 80 10 800.


¹ http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/part/2

² http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/s_to_u/stalking_and_harassment

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