Home > Ending Violence > June 1 to 7: Sexual Harassment Awareness Week

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June 1 to 7: Sexual Harassment Awareness Week

Sexual violence is prevalent in the lives of far too many women, this province has taken strong action to end sexual harassment.

  • What is sexual harassment?

    Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, sexual harassment is “engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct that is known or ought to be known to be unwelcome.” Sexual harassment can include:

    • asking for sex in exchange for something, like offering to improve a test score, offering a raise or promotion at work, or withholding something like needed repairs to your apartment
    • asking for dates and not taking “no” for an answer
    • demanding hugs
    • making unnecessary physical contact, including unwanted touching
    • using rude or insulting language or making comments that stereotype girls, women, boys or men
    • calling people unkind names that relate to their sex or gender
    • making comments about a person’s physical appearance (for example, whether or not they are attractive)
    • saying or doing something because you think a person does not fit sex-role stereotypes
    • posting or sharing pornography, sexual pictures, cartoons, graffiti or other sexual images (including online)
    • making sexual jokes
    • bragging about sexual ability
    • bullying based on sex or gender
    • spreading sexual rumours or gossip (including online)

    Sexual harassment does not have to be sexual. It can also mean that someone is bothering you because they think that you don’t act, look or dress in the way that a man (or boy) or woman (or girl) should.

    This information has been provided by the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment: Know Your Rightspublication.

  • Technology and sexual harassment

    The Internet is prominent in our lives, the lives of our children and loved ones. It is so prevalent that it has changed the way we communicate, the way we relate to each other, the way we do our work, find entertainment and even the way we learn. It is estimated that over 2.4 billion people around the world use the Internet.

    The Internet and cell-phones are used to commit many forms of violence against women, (e.g. sexual violence, harassment, stalking and intimate partner violence). Cyber bullying for example is a growing problem in Ontario communities. Many victims of cyber bullying are girls and women, and much of this bullying is often in the context of sexual related violence. This type of violence has become so prevalent that the UN estimates 95 per cent of cyber harassment is directed at girls and women.

    What is cyber harassment?

    Often used interchangeably, cyber harassment and cyber stalking are defined as repeated, unsolicited, threatening behaviour by a person or group using cell-phone or Internet technology with the intent to bully, harass and intimidate a victim. This harassment can take place in any electronic environment where communication with others is possible, such as on social networking sites, on message boards, in chat rooms, through text messages or through email.

    Effects of cyber harassment

    Victims of cyber harassment, sexual harassment and stalking experience devastating emotional, mental and psychological trauma. Sexual violence perpetrated through technology, such as harassing text messages, sharing or threatening to share intimate photographs, audio or video recordings, can publicly humiliate a victim. The psychological and emotional consequences of an assault can be compounded when social media is used to harass or discredit a victim and in some cases can even end in suicide.

  • Ending sexual harassment in Ontario

    Every woman and girl in Ontario has the right to be safe in her home, at school, in the workplace, in her community and on the web. Let’s work together to keep our communities free from sexual harassment.

    What you can do if you’re being harassed

    Talk to someone, like a friend, coworker, parent, relative or someone you trust. You might feel angry or think that you are making a big deal out of nothing. Talking about your experience with someone you trust can help you decide what to do next.

    It is important to get information about how best to handle the situation. The more you know, the better you will be able to deal with the harassment.  You may be able to end the harassment by talking with the harasser and asking him to stop.  If the sexual harassment happens at school, you can speak to a teacher, guidance counselor, vice-principal or principal. If it happens at work, you can speak to a supervisor, manager, union representative or human resources advisor.

    If you are being sexually harassed by a person in a position of authority over you, like your teacher or supervisor, you may need to bring the issue to the attention of someone at your work or school. If you feel you have experienced sexual harassment, you may also wish to file a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

    You may wish to keep a written record of the incident or incidents that includes:  what happened; where it happened; when it happened (list all dates and times); who did the harassing; witnesses, if any; what you did in return and how the harasser acted in response; and how you felt and what effects the harassment has had on your life.  You will want to keep copies of any emails, letters or other documents.

    For information on sexual harassment, your rights and what you can do if you are being harassed, please visit:

  • What about sexual harassment in the workplace?

    Ontario’s Human Rights Code prohibits sexual harassment in employment.  Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) has been amended to strengthen protections for workers from workplace violence and harassment, including sexual harassment.  These amendments came into force in June 2010.  Employers in Ontario are now required to develop workplace violence and workplace harassment polices and programs.   Employers are responsible for responding to sexual harassment if it happens in the workplaces or anywhere employees do work-related activities.

    For information for workers on sexual harassment in the workplace, please visit:

    For information on changes to the OHSA and resource materials to help employers meet the requirements of the legislative amendments, please visit:

    What about sexual harassment in school?

    Teachers and principals are responsible to respond to harassment that happens in their classroom or school, or anywhere school-related activities are taking place. Ontario’s Safe School Strategy is helping to ensure gender-based violence, homophobia, sexual harassment and inappropriate sexual behaviour are discussed in the classroom. The Keeping Our Kids Safe At School Act requires school staff to report incidents of bullying to the principal, and requires principals to contact the parents of victims.

    For information on sexual harassment and education, please visit:

    For more information for students and parents on Ontario’s Safe Schools Strategy, please visit:

    For resources on bullying in schools, including sexual harassment, please visit