Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity
What Should You Do If You Feel You Are Being Sexually Harassed?
First and foremost, avoid blaming yourself. It is not your fault. Place the blame where it belongs - on the harasser. Self-blame may cause depression, and will not help you or the situation.
- Keep a diary or record of each incident. Include the date, time, place, witnesses, and descriptions of what happened and your response. Even if you don't proceed with a complaint, this process can help you clarify in your own mind what is happening.
- If you feel safe doing so, convey to the harasser that the behavior is unwanted and unacceptable. If you are unsure how to proceed, the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity (314-516-5695) can help you assess the situation and decide what your next move should be.
If you do decide to make your concerns known to the harasser and feel safe in doing so, some sources suggest that you send a letter, by certified mail. Give the person a factual statement of what has occurred ("Last week when we were waiting for class to start, you told several dirty jokes") and your feelings about those events ("I was very upset; I felt humiliated and offended").
State explicitly what you want to happen next ("Please do not tell dirty jokes in class; I want to be treated with respect, not as a sex object"). You do not necessarily have to use the words "sexual harassment." The letter should not call for any discussion or explanation on the harasser's part; you are simply asking in a very civil tone for the behavior to stop.
Because at this point you are trying to achieve a change in behavior without being perceived as threatening, do not copy anyone else initially. Do keep a copy of your letter in case your efforts do not effect positive change and you need to seek assistance to deal with the harassment.
- Stay healthy. If you are experiencing physical or psychological stress, seek out a physician or counselor. Make sure you get enough food, exercise, and sleep.
- Talk to someone with the authority. Talk to your supervisor or a faculty member or an administrator in your department or contact the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity at 314-516-5695. The University has both formal and informal complaint processes.
Even if you don't want to file a formal complaint, there are some actions the University can take to address the harassment -- but we can't act unless we know about the problem.
Note that university personnel have a duty to report discrimination. If you are concerned about confidentiality, be sure to ask the person whether you can speak to them in confidence and what action, if any, they are required to take after they talk to you.
- Know your legal rights. While we strongly encourage you to try the University process first, you do have other state and federal rights you can pursue.