What is sexual harassment at work?


Sexual harassment is unwanted conduct (verbal, nonverbal or physical) of a sexual nature that has the intent or effect of violating a person’s dignity. 

Sexual harassment creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for targets and witnesses of the harassment.   

It can happen offline and online. 

It can be a one off incident or a pattern of behaviour 

You can be impacted by something that is not directly aimed at you.   

It is still harassment even if the behaviour was not intended to offend.  


Sexual harassment is usually experienced by women and perpetrated by men – but it can also be the other way round and may involve people of the same gender. 

Any person of any age, race, ethnicity, sexuality or gender can be a target or a harasser. 


Sexual harassment can happen anywhere.  

In theatre it commonly happens in the rehearsal room and backstage.  But it can also take place in company offices, hotels, bars, drama schools, in training and online. 

Formal press night drinks after a performance are considered work.  

Did you know?

If you go for a drink with colleagues at the end of the day this would normally be considered an extension of your workplace for harassment purposes – i.e. anything that is unacceptable in a rehearsal room or office is still unacceptable in the bar after work.  


Behaviour you might recognise as sexual harassment: 

  • Sexual comments, ‘jokes’ and innuendos 
  • Suggestive looks, staring or leering 
  • Sexual gestures  
  • Unwelcome touching, hugging, massaging or kissing  
  • Making promises in return for sexual favours
  • Sending sexually explicit texts or emails to or about you  
  • Downloading or viewing pornographic materials, even if they do not send them to you personally 
  • Sexual assault 


Behaviour you might not recognise as sexual harassment: 

  • Following you outside of work  
  • Sexual posts or contact on social media 
  • Filming or photographing someone without their knowledge or consent 
  • Spreading false rumours  
  • Asking intrusive questions about your ‘love life’ or a person discussing their own sex life  
  • Commenting or spreading rumours about a person’s sexuality 


No-one ever deserves to be the target of sexual harassment. 

We all have a responsibility to create a safe working culture for everyone so we can create the best work we can.