Understanding Sexual Harassment

A person’s behavior can meet the criteria for sexual harassment regardless of their intent. The terms “behavior” and “conduct” includes verbal, non-verbal, or physical conduct.


There are two categories of sexual harassment:

  • Quid Pro Quo – This type of harassment involves a situation where one person has power over the other, e.g. supervisor-staff or teacher-student, and the subordinate believes that an academic or employment decision is contingent upon submitting to unwelcome sexual conduct. This includes direct solicitations for sex as well as less direct propositions such as a request to discuss a project over dinner.
  • Hostile Environment – Unwelcome conduct that a reasonable person would find to be so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the College’s educational programs or activities or Pierce College employment. For examples, see our sexual harassment behaviors page.

Elements of Sexual Harassment

  • Unwelcome conduct – There are many ways to communicate that behavior is unwelcome. To prevent confusion, it is always best to clearly communicate that you want the behavior to stop.
  • That is sexual in nature, sex-based or gender-based AND
  • severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive – sexual assault is an example of a single behavior severe enough to meet this criteria; pervasive behavior is conduct that is widespread; objectively offensive behavior would be offensive to a similarly situated person
  • Interferes with, denies or limits access/ability to participate in or benefit from education/educational activity or employment

Say Something

  • Don’t ignore behaviors. Be clear that you consider the behavior to be harassment. The person may not realize that their behavior offends you or that it is unwelcome. If you need some help with how to say it, would like to have another person present, or need someone to intervene for you, contact the Title IX Coordinator.
  • Keep a written record. If the behavior is repeated (whether or not you have confronted it), log specific dates, times, locations, and behaviors which can be helpful when filing a complaint.  If you are receiving harassing text messages, emails, or other electronic communications, preserve screenshots in case they may be needed later.
  • Talk to someone. Find emotional support by telling a friend, co-worker, or counselor. Please keep in mind that all employees, with the exception of the counselors, are required to report sexual harassment to the Title IX Coordinator.
  • Report it. Although college employees are required to report, any person who knows or hears about a sexual harassment concern is strongly encouraged to contact the Title IX Coordinator. There are a number of options for both resolving complaints as well as helping those involved continue with their education. Pierce College’s harassment policy and student conduct policy forbids retaliation against any participant who files a report or is involved in an investigation.

Get Help

The effects of sexual harassment vary by person and are impacted by the severity and duration of the harassment. Likewise, the effects can vary in severity and be short-lived, long-lasting and/or spill over into other parts of life. A person who has been sexually harassed may experience anxiety, frustration, inability to concentrate, anger, fear, depression, change in appetite and difficulty sleeping.