Know Your Rights: Campus Sexual Harassment

The AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund is committed to advocating for a safe, welcoming, and harassment-free university or college campus environment. We offer the following information and resources for all concerned about sexual harassment on campus.

Strategies for students »
Learn how students around the country have developed programs to prevent and address sexual harassment on their campuses through AAUW’s Campus Action Projects.

Overview of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 »
Title IX prohibits sex discrimination, including sexual harassment, in federally funded education programs.

Overview of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 »
Title VII protects employees on college campuses from sexual discrimination, including sexual harassment.

Get a list of additional resources »
A directory of organizations and publications that offer more information and contacts on sexual harassment.

Sexual Harassment Case Against Yale »
Lisa Maatz, AAUW director of public policy and government relations, speaks about a sexual harassment case against Yale University on ABC’s Good Morning America.

About Campus Sexual Harassment

AAUW’s report Drawing the Line: Sexual Harassment on Campus shows that most college students experience some type of sexual harassment while at college, often during their first year. From unwanted sexual remarks to forced sexual contact, these experiences cause students, especially female students, to feel upset, uncomfortable, angry, and disappointed in their college experience. In response, students avoid places on campus, change their schedules, drop classes or activities, or otherwise change their lives to avoid sexual harassment. While many colleges and universities have policies in place, sexual harassment continues to have a damaging effect on women’s educational experiences. These violations undermine students’ opportunities for educational and professional achievement and affect their personal lives. Campus communities must do more to address and prevent campus sexual harassment.

Sexual Harassment Statistics

Understanding Sexual Harassment

Both women and men harbor misconceptions about sexual harassment. Getting the facts is essential to combating sexual harassment on campus.

Did you know?

  • Sexual harassment includes verbal, nonverbal, and physical behavior.
  • Unwanted and unwelcome lewd jokes, gender-based slurs, and sexual contact all represent examples of sexual harassment.
  • Behavior that creates a sexually hostile learning or working environment is also sexual harassment.
  • Sexual harassment can occur between people of the same sex.
  • Whether the harassment occurs between a man and a women or people of the same sex, it’s still against the law. Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, Inc., 523 U.S. 75 (1998)
  • The victim of sexual harassment does not have to be the person directly harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct. (EEOC)

Facts and Figures

AAUW Educational Foundation research on sexual harassment, Drawing the Line, shows that…

62% of female college students and 61% of male college students report having been sexually harassed at their university. (17)

66% of college students know someone personally who was harassed. (14)

10% or less of student sexual harassment victims attempt to report their experiences to a university employee. (2)

35% or more of college students who experience sexual harassment do not tell anyone about their experiences. (18)

80% of students who experienced sexual harassment report being harassed by another student or former student. (20)

39% of students who experienced sexual harassment say the incident or incidents occurred in the dorm. (15)

51% of male college students admit to sexually harassing someone in college, with 22% admitting to harassing someone often or occasionally. (22)

31% of female college students admit to harassing someone in college. (22)

The Impact on Victims

Physical and emotional

68% of female students felt very or somewhat upset by sexual harassment they experienced; only 6% were not at all upset. (27-28)

57% of female students who have been sexually harassed reported feeling self-conscious or embarrassed (29)

55% of female students who have been sexually harassed reported feeling angry. (29)

32% female students who have been sexually harassed reported feeling afraid or scared. (29)

Academics and achievement

Students experience a wide range of effects from sexual harassment that impact their academics including: have trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, decreased participation in class, avoid a study group, think about changing schools, change schools, avoid the library, change major, not gone to a professor/ teaching assistant’s office hours. Students may experience multiple effects or just one. The wide range of experiences lowers the percentage of students who experience any particular effect.

16% of female students who have been sexually harassed found it hard to study or pay attention in class. (31)

9% of female students dropped a course or skipped a class in response to sexual harassment. (31)

27% of female students stay away from particular buildings or places on campus as a result of sexual harassment. (31)