Sexual Harassment, Assault: See It! Report It! Stop It!

By Ann Bargains, Phd, Chief, Equal Employment and Opportunity Southwestern DivisionDecember 29, 2014

I. A.M. Strong
Official U.S. Army graphic.
The Army recently codified the goals of its Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program in a SHARP Campaign Plan. The Army SHARP Campaign plan provides a road map that illustrates the Army's plans to synchro... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)

DALLAS (Dec. 23, 2014) -- Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination and a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. According to Army's policy on sexual harassment, it violates acceptable standards of integrity and conduct required of all Army personnel - military and civilian.

Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome advances, requests for sexual favors, and any other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when 1) submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as a basis of employment decisions; 2) submission to such conduct is made a term or condition of employment or, 3) such conduct unreasonably interferes with job performance or has the purpose or effect of creating a hostile, offensive, or intimidating work environment.

There are two types of sexual harassment - quid pro quo and hostile work environment. Quid pro quo is considered a "tangible action" form of sexual harassment. The demand for sexual favors is tied to a tangible benefit of the job - in return for job benefits, or this for that. Hostile environment occurs when the harassing conduct unreasonably interferes with job performance, or creates an intimidating, offensive or hostile work environment.

Sexual harassment can take any or all of these forms - physical, verbal or nonverbal. Third party sexual harassment is a collateral-effect of harassment. This means that someone other than the intended victim of the harassment is affected. Any person who suffers a harm, is offended by the harassing conduct or believes that his/her work environment has become hostile or intimidating due to the harassing conduct, can claim sexual or hostile environment harassment.

Oh, by the way - employers can be held liable for the harassing conduct, but only when based on the following standards: 1) the employer knew or should have known about the harassing behavior and took no action; and 2) the employer failed to prevent or take immediate and appropriate action to correct the conduct. You see, the employer is liable for the actions of its employees. There are actions the employer can take that can relieve it of liability: 1) ensure ALL employees receive sexual harassment training; 2) develop and disseminate sexual harassment policies; 3) take immediate and appropriate actions when incidents occur; and 4) where the victim took no reasonable care to avoid the conduct/harm or did not take advantage of any preventive or corrective opportunities provided by the employer. Harassers can always be held liable.

Sexual assault is intentional sexual contact, characterized by the use of force, physical threat, the abuse of authority, or when the victim does not or cannot consent. It is any unwanted, forced or coerced sexual act and a violation of the law. Sexual assault is not about sex - it is a crime of violence where sex is used as a weapon, motivated by the desire to have power and control over the victim. This means that sexual assault is a criminal offense, punishable by law.

Sexual assault may take the form of rape and aggravated sexual assault, forcible sodomy, and aggravated sexual contact and wrongful sexual contact.

Rape and aggravated assault is where the victim is taken advantage of by force through fear, by being rendered unconscious, or where they have been given drugs to render them unconscious or out of control of their body. It is taking advantage of a person that is too incapacitated to provide consent.

Forcible sodomy is sodomy by force without consent.

Aggravated sexual contact and wrongful sexual contact involve non-consensual touching which may involve force, grievous bodily harm, threats, unconsciousness, or the administering drugs.

We all have a responsibility to prevent sexual harassment and sexual assault. Individuals and the organization are at risk when there are incidents of sexual harassment/assault. In some instances, the organization can be held liable for harassment of individuals by the supervisors.

The bottom line for sexual harassment, whether it's hostile work environment or quid pro quo, and for sexual assault is that these actions are illegal and those who commit such acts are subject to penalties. If you see it, Stop It! Report It! Don't be a victim and Don't be a perpetrator!

POCs: Sexual Harassment Complaints Manager: Ms Tonia Buxton, SWF EEO Officer at or by telephone at 817-886-1321. Sexual Assault Coordinator: Victor Roberts at victor.l.roberts@ or by telephone at 469-487-7119.

Army Values and the Prevention of and Response to Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault.

LOYALTY - NO always means NO

DUTY - Set the Standard of Conduct

RESPECT - Silence doesn't mean Consent

SELFLESS SERVICE - Assess, Discern and Mitigate

HONOR - Without Consent, it is Sexual Assault

INTEGRITY - Sexual Assault is a Crime

PERSONAL COURAGE - Be a Leader, not a Passive Bystander

Related Links: Inside the Army News Sexual Harassment/Assault Prevention and Response Program