Trigger warning

Please note that this chapter (and pages it links to) contains information about sexual assault and violence that may be triggering to victim/survivors.


Suzan Gencay

Sexual harassment

What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is unlawful under both Victorian and Commonwealth law.

In section 92 of the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic) (‘EO Act’), ‘sexual harassment’ is defined as behaviour such as unwelcome sexual advances, unwelcome requests for sexual favours, and unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that would make a person feel offended, humiliated or intimidated. This can be done physically, verbally or in writing, and either in front of a person or about them to others.

Kinds of sexual harassment are listed in sections 93 to 102 of the EO Act and in sections 28B to 28L of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth).

Sexual harassment can occur:

  • at work;
  • in industrial organisations (e.g. unions);
  • in qualifying bodies (e.g. professional organisations);
  • in schools;
  • in clubs (e.g. social, literary, cultural, political, sporting, athletic);
  • in providing accommodation;
  • in local government (e.g. local council);
  • in providing goods or services.

What can you do about sexual harassment?

If you feel safe, you can approach the management of the organisation to make a complaint about how this behaviour is affecting you, making it clear that it is making you feel offended, humiliated or intimidated.

If you have been sexually harassed, you can complain to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission or the Australian Human Rights Commission.

If you are being sexually harassed at work, you may also be subject to workplace bullying. For more information about workplace bullying, see Chapter 11.7: Occupational health and safety.

If the person who is sexually harassing you is a family member, or a partner (either a current or former partner), you can apply for a family violence intervention order.

If the person who is sexually harassing you is not a family member or a partner, you can apply for a personal safety intervention order.

To apply for these orders, visit your local Magistrates’ Court (to find your nearest court, visit the Magistrates’ Court’s website.

For more information about family violence and personal safety, see Chapter 4.4: Family violence.

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Fines, infringements and criminal law