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University of Silesia in Katowice

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what is harassment?


It is any type of unwanted behaviour that aims at or results in violating the dignity of a natural person and evoke around them an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive atmosphere. Violating dignity may be the result of various types of behaviours expressed with gestures, words, statements, and affronts insulting or harassing a given person in any way.

Harassment is a form of discrimination which, although it indicates a recurring behaviour related to bothering and intrusiveness, may be a one-off act.

Harassment has much in common with a conflict; an unresolved yet escalated conflict may potentially turn into sexual harassment against an employee or a student.

Both an employer and a lecturer are obliged to counteract behaviours that might manifest in discrimination yet do not lead to a situation of public confrontation with an outright attack by others.

This means a situation in which the atmosphere and emotions of given group members (e.g. employees, students) may lead to violation of others’ dignity and evoke an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive atmosphere against them. For example: a person has publicly expressed their religious commitment in a group, and for this reason is regularly treated in a humiliating manner, attacked with derogatory comments or threatened.

Sexual harassment is the most recognisable form of harassment.

Expressing an objection to behaviour such as harassment is very important in the context of the possibility of accusing a person of having been the perpetrator of the harassment. Such an objection can be expressed in any given form: written, verbal, or even signalising the environment that a given person has become the object of unwanted and unacceptable behaviours.

It is worth remembering that any opposition or submission to the harassment may not cause any negative consequences for such a person.

Sexual harassment

According to the Act on Equal Treatment, sexual harassment is any unwanted sexual behaviour against a natural person or relating to gender, which aims to or results in violating this person’s dignity, especially through evoking an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive atmosphere around them, including:

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sexual comments and verbal suggestions (e.g. sexual comments of a professor addressed to a PhD student such as “You look hot today” or a suggestion “You’re turning me on”)

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sexual messages sent non-verbally or via social media (e.g. sending nude pictures via social media or showing sexual gestures)

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violation of the bodily integrity (e.g. looking for opportunities of inappropriate touching or groping)

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threats, deception, or leverage used to eventuate in sexual intercourse (e.g. blackmailing a student by an examiner that they will not pass the exam unless the student engages in a sexual intercourse with the examiner)

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sexual abuse of legal insanity, helplessness, or abuse of relation of dependency (e.g. intoxicating someone with alcohol in order to engage in a sexual intercourse without that person’s consent)

Depending on their relationship with individual representatives of the community, members of the academic community may be subject to disciplinary actions and civil liability or criminal prosecution at the University, depending on the degree of the committed violation or crime.

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