Sexual Harassment on Campus

Author name
Amy Cleckler

Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome, unreciprocated and unwanted sexual attention, gestures or touching - occurring to an extent in which they adversely interfere with your life because of their severity and persistence. Sexual harassment is taken very seriously by the Duke community. The Duke Harassment Policy states: "Harassment of any individual for any reason is not acceptable at Duke University."

Did you know that rates of sexual harassment are almost equal for male and female students?

According to 'Drawing the Line: Sexual Harassment on Campus' (AAUW Educational Foundation, 2005), males and females report having experienced sexual harassment at similar rates, but the types of harassment they experience are very different.

Here are some common examples of sexual harassment experienced by college students:

  • Sexual jokes, gestures, comments or looks [repeated and/or unwanted, or to an extent that creates a hostile and/or threatening environment]
  • Flashing or mooning someone
  • Spying on someone who is dressing or showering
  • Cornering or following someone in a sexual way
  • Forced kissing
  • Spreading sexual messages about someone on social media
  • Calling someone homophobic names

Female students are more likely to be the target of sexual jokes, comments or gestures or leering looks. Male students are more likely to be targeted and teased with homophobic slurs, such as being called 'queer' or 'faggot.' [And we know from many studies that LGBTQQA students are far more likely to be harassed than hetero-identified students.]

First, it's never ok for anyone to create a hostile, threatening environment for anyone else based on their gender or sexuality. But patterns of harassing behavior and how they play out in the campus community describes strong and prevalent pressure to adhere to traditional gender norms. Women are targeted simply because they are female, and are therefore vulnerable to unwanted sexual attention by some entitled males who believe women's bodies are available to them for touching and staring and commenting. Men are vulnerable as a result of society's devaluation of queerness and femininity, and the concomitant privileging of a rigid, traditional masculinity. This combination of privileging the masculine and disdain for (and control over) all things feminine, serves to preserve the patriarchy and male superiority. Therefore men suffer from patriarchy and rape culture too, although not at the same frequency or to the same degree as women and queer people.

What can we do about sexual harassment that's happening to us or someone we know?

The Office of Gender Violence Prevention and Intervention can help! We offer counseling, information and advocacy services 24/7/365. We are on the W Campus bus circle and can be reached after hours at 919-886-6814. Also, you can sign up for a PACT training to find out more about how to intervene in situations involving all forms of gender violence.

You can also report student-on-student sexual harassment to the Office of Student Conduct.

You can also report staff/faculty-on-student sexual harassment to the Office for Institutional Equity.