Sexual Misconduct - Sexual Harassment

Yale’s Definition of Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment consists of nonconsensual sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature on or off campus, when: (1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a condition of an individual’s employment or academic standing; or (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as the basis for employment decisions or for academic evaluation, grades, or advancement; or (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work or academic performance or creating an intimidating or hostile academic or work environment. Sexual harassment may be found in a single episode, as well as in persistent behavior. Both men and women are protected from sexual harassment, and sexual harassment is prohibited regardless of the sex of the harasser.

General Information About Sexual Harassment

There are a range of behaviors and behavior patterns that fall into the category of sexual harassment. Typically, we use the term to describe unwanted sexualization of a professional relationship: inappropriate jokes and remarks, sexual advances, sexual questioning, and so on. Some of these behaviors may feel harmless on their own, but add up to create a hostile environment; other behaviors are clearly hostile and intimidating even as singular occurrences. Not all sexual harassment is directed at a specific victim; some of it can affect many people who are within range. Given how closely we work and live together at Yale, even very focused harassment can impact people beyond the direct recipient.

People of all genders can commit sexual harassment, and also be the recipient of it. Sexual harassment can occur between peers or between individuals with different degrees of power and status. Ongoing harassment can be particularly difficult to address when it takes place within professional and academic hierarchies—advisors, managers, supervisors, etc.—as the recipient may feel that making a complaint will worsen the situation.  It is true, though, that harassment usually worsens over time.  Inaction is rarely a successful strategy. 

Because of the strong likelihood of sexual coercion and harassment, Yale prohibits even consensual sexual relationships between teachers and students. “Teacher” and “student” are broadly defined here. A teacher could be a faculty member, teaching fellow, visiting faculty, or anyone whose institutional role includes mentoring, advising, or evaluating students (e.g., athletic coaches, supervisors of student employees, advisors and directors of student organizations, Residential College Fellows, etc.). A student is anyone enrolled in any of Yale’s educational or training programs. For undergraduates, there is a blanket prohibition: no teacher may have a sexual or amorous relationship with any undergraduate. For others students, the prohibition is narrower: no teacher may have a sexual or amorous relationship with any student he or she is currently teaching or supervising.

If you are being sexually harassed, it can feel as if you are trapped. That is not true. Yale can and does take forceful action in response to cases of sexual harassment. The University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct has access to a range of options available, and will work closely with you to minimize the impact on your educational or professional careers.

You can contact the UWC directly, or start by calling SHARE. We are always available to help you evaluate the situation and strategize about what to do next.

Are you or someone you know experiencing sexual harassment? View Crisis Situations - Sexual Harassment