Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is an umbrella term that refers to a broad range of unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex.

The following is a general summary of GW’s policy about this behavior. You can also view the full policy (PDF) online. 

Sexual Harassment is conduct on the basis of sex that satisfies one or more of the following:

  • A university employee conditions the provision of an aid, benefit, or service on an individual’s participation in unwelcome sexual conduct;
  • unwelcome conduct determined by a reasonable person to be so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the university’s Programs or Activities;
  • Sexual Assault
  • Dating Violence
  • Domestic Violence
  • Stalking

There are two main types of sexual harassment


  1. Quid Pro Quo (Latin for: “this for that”): Some examples may include:

    • Offering a reward such as a promotion or a different work assignment in exchange for sexual favors or submission to sexual conduct

    • Offering a reward such as a better grade, letter of recommendation, or admission to a program in exchange for sexual favors or submission to sexual contact

    • Threatening or taking a negative action such as termination, demotion, change in working conditions, denial of an employee benefit, giving an unfair grade, withholding a letter of recommendation, or intentionally making the individual's job or academic work more difficult because submission to conduct of a sexual nature is rejected

  2. Hostile Environment: Some examples may include:

    • Repeated propositions or requests for a sexual relationship to an individual who has indicated this behavior is not wanted

    • Unwelcome physical contact of a sexual nature

    • Sexual gestures, noises, remarks, jokes. questions, or comments about a person's sexuality that are so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that they effectively deny a person equal access to the university's programs or activites.


It is important to note that sexual harassment:

  • May be blatant and intentional or may be subtle and indirect
  • May be committed by anyone, regardless of gender, age, position, or authority.  While there is often a power differential between the two persons, harassment may occur in any context
  • May be committed by a stranger, an acquaintance, or someone who the person has an intimate or sexual relationship
  • May be committed by or against an individual or may be a result of the actions of an organization or group
  • May occur by or against an individual of any sex, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation
  • May occur in the classroom, in the workplace, in residential settings or in any other context
  • May be a one-time event or may be part of a pattern of behavior
  • May be committed in the presence of others or when the parties are alone
  • May affect the target of the harassment and/or third parties who witness or observe the harassment
  • Do not have to include an intent to harm, be directed at a specific target, or involve repeated incidents