Victoria Legal Aid

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment can be a form of sexual assault. This includes anything that makes you or another person feel uncomfortable, offended, intimidated or humiliated. It can include unwelcome sexual attention, unwanted sexual touching, staring, wolf-whistling, dirty jokes and requests for sex.

Sexual harassment is unwelcome or unwanted sexual behaviour that offends, humiliates, intimidates or undermines you. It can be physical, verbal, written or other conduct.

It can be a single incident, or repeated behaviour.

Sexual harassment can include:

  • pictures or photos
  • comments
  • emails or social media like Facebook
  • suggestive behaviour
  • physical acts, such as deliberately brushing up against someone.

When sexual harassment is against the law

Sexual harassment is against the law when it happens in certain areas of public life. 'Public life' includes:

  • at work
  • working as a volunteer
  • at school, university or TAFE
  • in shops
  • when buying or selling goods or services
  • in clubs
  • activities you participate in, such as sports.

What you can do

Sometimes sexual harassment can involve a sexual assault, stalking or blackmail, or other criminal offences. If you think that this is the case, you should contact the police.

If you are being harassed at work, it is your employer's responsibility to do everything within reason to make your workplace free from sexual harassment. For more information about what you can do see Workplace bullying.

It is also against the law for you to be victimised because you have made a complaint about sexual harassment. This means that you can’t be treated badly or unfairly for making a complaint.

If you can’t resolve a sexual harassment issue directly with the person involved, you can make a complaint to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights CommissionExternal Link or the Australian Human Rights CommissionExternal Link .

However, discrimination law is complex and it can be confusing knowing which option is the best one for you. If you complain to one place, sometimes you cannot change your mind later and complain elsewhere. It is best to speak to call us to get legal help before lodging a complaint.

Other support

Find out how you can get other support for discrimination, harassment and bullying.

Disclaimer: The material in this print-out relates to the law as it applies in the state of Victoria. It is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this print-out without getting legal advice about their own particular situations. Victoria Legal Aid disclaims any liability howsoever caused to any person in respect of any action taken in reliance on the contents of the publication.

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Reviewed 12 April 2022

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