Sexual harassment as defined by the EEOC defined is unwelcomed sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment; submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis of employment decisions affecting an individual or; such conduct has the effect of interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating hostile or abusive work environment.
Sexual harassment differs from most other forms of victimization, including sexual assaults, in two primary ways. First, sexual harassment often does not involve an actual physical assault. Rather, harassment can be evident in ways such as sexually suggestive comments, unwanted touching, risqué jokes, pornography, or blatant demands for sexual contact. In most cases, these actions take place within the work place or educational settings where both the offender and the victim are required to be in close contact. With this consideration, it suggests that the offender and victim are acquaintances. The second distinguishing feature of sexual harassment is that the criminal justice system rarely deals with these infractions. Instead, sexual harassment falls into the realm of civil or administrative law.
While no universally accepted definition of sexual harassment exists, most definitions such as the definition provided by the EEOC outline unacceptable actions that fall into two categories. The first is quid pro quo harassment, wherein the offender requires sexual contact in exchange for employment, better working conditions, high grades, or other favorable treatment. In essence, the offender sets up an exchange arrangement in which sexual contact is the cost to be paid by the victim. The actual threat does not have to be carried out for the action to constitute sexual harassment. The threat is enough in and of itself.
The second category deals with the creation of a hostile environment. Under this form, the harassment may be as subtle as displaying pictures of naked individuals at work, telling sexual jokes, touching a person, or commenting about how good a person looks in specific clothing. In each case the victim, intentionally or unintentionally, is made to feel uncomfortable. While some individuals may not perceive these actions as harassment, others will be impacted negatively by the activity. The creation of a hostile environment is more difficult to identify and requires individuals to