It is not often that sexual harassment and discrimination become an explicit topic in daily university life. It would appear that there are hardly any such cases at ASH Berlin.
However, as the university is a place of work and study, hierarchies and relationships can create conditions in which sexual harassment could potentially arise. Affected individuals often fear professional or study-related disadvantages if they stand up against sexual harassment. They might blame themselves or be uncertain about what exactly has happened to them. In many cases, sexual harassment goes hand in hand with blurred boundaries, subtle innuendo and other disguising tactics that make it difficult to take action against it. The gender equality officers therefore provide information about this issue on the following pages, outlining ways to deal with it and where you can get advice.
What is sexual harassment, discrimination or violence?
Sexual discrimination, harassment and violence include for example:
- Sexually demeaning language (in particular remarks or jokes about people, their body, behaviour or private life)
- Gestures and non-verbal comments with a sexual connotation (such as derogatory looks or seemingly accidental physical contact)
- Verbal, visual or electronic presentation of pornographic or sexist scenarios
- Copying or using computer programmes of such a nature on IT systems
- Unwanted touching or physical assault
- Unwanted requests for sexual behaviour or coercion
Sexual harassment is exercised in a variety of ways, such as in a verbal or non-verbal manner or through actual physical assault.
Sexual harassment can be individually perceived very differently. It does not have to be intended or consciously exercised. The only thing that matters is whether it is perceived by the affected person as sexual harassment.
You can contact the following support services if you feel you are being or have been sexually harassed:
The gender equality officers are the first point of contact and advice for members of ASH Berlin if they feel they are being sexually harassed. The gender equality officers will also represent you if you do not wish to take action yourself.
Free counselling is available from the psychological and psychotherapeutic counsellors of Studentenwerk Berlin. If you have been affected by sexual harassment, you are welcome to contact the counsellors.
Location: Hardenbergstraße 34, 10623 Berlin
Phone: (030) 93939-8401
E-Mail: beratung@ studentenwerk-berlin.de
Location: Franz-Mehring-Platz 2, 10243 Berlin
Phone: (030) 939393-8438
E-Mail: beratung@ studentenwerk-berlin.de
Consultation hours: Monday - Thursday 9.00 - 16.30, Friday 9.00 - 15.00
Outside of the university there are a number of professional counselling and support services. An overview can be found on the website of bff - Frauen gegen Gewalt e.V. (bff - women against violence).
Sometimes it is possible for you to intervene at the time when sexual harassment is actually being experienced. This depends on various factors, for instance the relationship between the affected person and the harasser. It often requires a lot of self-confidence and courage to directly stand up against sexual harassment. The following suggested courses of action should help you to take action in acute cases. However, if you feel unable to do this and decide otherwise, please do not feel negatively about yourself in any way.
It is often difficult to recognise a situation that you have experienced as harassment. This might be because of your own embarrassment and uncertainty or because it is all very subtle and indirect. It is therefore always important to take note of how you perceive things personally and to take this seriously to avoid immediately questioning your own perspective.
If possible, directly go on the offensive and actively react in the very first instance of harassment. Possible forms of resistance could be:
- Take the harasser to task – confront the person and clearly describe the perceived harassment
- Warn the person that you will make a complaint/report
- Announce you will tell others about the incident
- Direct physical defence
Talking with someone you trust can often make you feel less troubled. Maybe others have also had negative experiences with the person who has harassed you?
Documenting everything in detail as soon as possible is very useful in case you decide to file a report or make a complaint. It is also a good idea to keep emails, letters, text messages etc. and to talk to potential witnesses.
A confidential talk with the gender equality officer or Staff Council is especially recommended if the harassment happens again, perhaps even despite standing up against it. If you are uncertain how situations should be seen or just feel you would like to talk to someone, it is always good to make use of the support and advice that is available at university. Support is confidential and information will only be passed on if the affected person explicitly wants this to happen. The gender equality officers can also support you with further confidential talks and taking the next steps.
Outside of the university there are a number of professional counselling and support services. An overview can be found on the website of bff - Gewalt gegen Frauen e.V. (Bff - violence against women).
If your defence strategies are not sufficiently effective, there are always options for instigating further measures. This depends on the harasser’s job, role or office at the university. You should contact the gender equality officers or the Staff Council. However, you can also contact the University Board directly.
Informal measures can defuse the situation and help in individual cases. Getting support for such meetings can be very useful and you can ask the gender equality officers for their support. Informal measures could include:
- A meeting between the affected person and/or a person they trust and the harasser
- A meeting between a line manager and/or a person from the group of possible contact partners (e.g. gender equality officer, Staff Council) and the harasser, with reference to the prohibition of sexual discrimination, harassment and violence
- The affected person has the right to decline participation in informal steps and internal steps within the university or to have someone represent them instead