sexual harassment

What Does the Law Say About Sexual Offences

Sexual Harassments

Canberra Rape Crisis Centre

Sexual harassment can come in many forms and can occur in the workplace, at school, at university or other education institutions and within the community. 1 in 5 women and 1 in 20 men experience some form of sexual harassment in the workplace (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2008).


The Australian Human Rights Commission (2013) identifies that sexual harassment can occur on one or more occasions, be direct or indirect, and may include:

  • staring or leering.
  • unnecessary familiarity, such as deliberately brushing up against a person or unwelcome touching.
  • suggestive comments or jokes.
  • insults or taunts of a suggestive nature.
  • intrusive questions or statements about another person’s private life.
  • displaying posters, magazines or screen savers of a sexual nature.
  • sending sexually explicit emails or text messages (sexting).
  • inappropriate advances on social networking sites.
  • accessing sexually explicit internet sites.
  • requests for sex or repeated unwanted requests to go out on dates.
  • behavior that may also be considered to be an offence under criminal law, such as physical assault, indecent exposure, sexual assault, stalking or obscene communications.
  • By its very nature, sexual harassment is unwanted and unwelcome and can leave a person feeling embarrassed, offended, shocked, humiliated and fearful. Many of those impacts and effects are similar to those experienced by victims/survivors of sexual assault.


Sometimes the person subjected to sexual harassment may be so traumatized that they suffer serious emotional consequences and may not be able to perform their job properly or concentrate while studying. The study or work environment may be so hostile and intimidating that it causes the person subjected to sexual harassment to leave their job or education and look elsewhere. Sexual harassment can be demoralizing on everyone within range of the harassment.


In recent years, multimedia and social networking sites including Facebook and Twitter, have been increasingly used in the perpetration of sexual offenses and sexual harassment.


In Australia, the Sex Discrimination Act makes sexual harassment unlawful in the workplace, in education, employment and in accommodation and in the provision of goods and services. People who feel they have been sexually harassed can make a complaint in writing, via email or over the phone to the Australian Human Rights Commission. You can find contact details for the Commission under Other Useful Contacts.


To see how the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre can support you please call 6247 2525.