What can I do?
Before making a formal allegation of harassment or bullying, you may want to try to resolve the issue yourself informally. When doing so give the perpetrator the opportunity to understand what they have done, the effects of what they have done and your concerns. Make clear that the behaviour is problematic, and why you are requesting that it stops. You could do this on a one to one basis, via a letter or asking someone else to come with you to speak to the person.
Ensure that whatever method you choose, you keep an account of what has happened, what efforts you used to attempt to resolve the situation and any outcomes, in case they are needed later.
Where an informal resolution is not possible or has been unsuccessful, students can make a formal approach to resolve the situation.
Anyone wishing to make a formal complaint against another student or students should email Secretariat to request a Student Misconduct complaint form under Part P of the University General Regulations 2022/23. (Student Misconduct).
If your complaint is against staff members any formal complaint must be made on the prescribed SCP1 pro-forma which is also available from Secretariat . Appropriate action will then be taken in accordance with University General Regulations 2022/23 Part O (Student Complaints).
If you are considering making a complaint you can speak to specialist advisers in the Student Support and Advice Centre. We are impartial and here to advise in your best interests. To book a confidential telephone appointment please email: email@example.com or telephone Student Support and Advice on 01522 837080.
What is Bullying?
There is no legal definition of bullying.
Most people define bullying as offensive behaviour by an individual or group, repeated over time, which violates a person’s dignity, can create an intimidating, hostile, degrading or offensive environment and humiliates or undermines an individual or group. Bullying is also unwanted conduct but is not necessarily related to a protected characteristic.
You can find more information on bullying by following this link: National Bullying Hotline
What is Harassment?
Harassment is unwanted behaviour from a group or individual which offends you, makes you feel distressed, intimidated or humiliated. This could be abusive comments or jokes, graffiti or insulting gestures. Harassment is a crime under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and can happen on its own or alongside other forms of discrimination.
Harassment can also be a form of discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. Discrimination which is against the Equality Act is unlawful. This means you can take action in the civil courts. If you’ve been treated badly, but it’s not unlawful discrimination there may be other things you can do.
This could be:
- spoken or written words or abuse
- offensive emails, tweets or comments on social networking sites
- images and graffiti
- physical gestures
- facial expressions
You don’t need to have previously objected to something for it to be unwanted.
When is harassment unlawful discrimination?
Harassment is unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 if it’s because of or connected to one of these areas:
- gender reassignment
- religion or beliefs
- sexual orientation
The Equality Act calls these protected characteristics. Harassment because of one of these characteristics is called harassment related to a protected characteristic.
Harassment because you’re pregnant or you’ve recently given birth
If you experience harassment because you’re pregnant, breastfeeding or you’ve recently given birth, this could be harassment related to sex.
What’s the effect of or the intention behind the harassment?
The Equality Act says it is harassment where the behaviour is meant to or has the effect of either:
- violating your dignity
- creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment
This means it is harassment even if the person harassing you didn’t mean to offend or intimidate you, as long as the harassment has one of the above effects.
If you go to court, the judge may have to decide if it is harassment or not. They will look at how the behaviour made you feel and whether it is reasonable for you to feel this way.
Examples of harassment related to a protected characteristic
The harassment may be directed at you, but it can also be directed at someone else or even at no-one in particular. It may have to do with your or someone else’s protected characteristic. It may not have anything to do with you but you still find it offensive.
As long as it’s related to a protected characteristic, it can be harassment.
You’re a woman. Whenever you work out at your local gym the other male gym users tease you and make insulting comments– for example, that it’s better not talk to you right now as it must be your time of the month again. You could have a claim for harassment related to sex.
A bus driver is making racist comments about black people whilst driving. This isn’t addressed at anyone in particular, but it creates an intimidating and hostile environment for the passengers, including you, who are on the bus. You could bring a claim for harassment related to race even though you’re not black.
You go out for dinner with your lesbian mums to celebrate your birthday. Some of the restaurant staff make anti-gay comments to each other throughout the evening about your parents. The comments are loud enough for everyone to hear. You find the comments offensive and feel very distressed by the staff’s behaviour. You could have a claim for harassment related to sexual orientation.
Harassment because of a protected characteristic someone thinks you have
You can be harassed because of a protected characteristic that someone thinks you have, even though you don’t.
Whilst waiting to be served at a bar, you hear the staff make loud and insulting comments about your appearance, saying you’re a male to female transsexual. Despite the fact this isn’t true, you feel intimidated and upset by their remarks and decide to leave. This could be harassment related to gender reassignment.
Harassment because of a protected characteristic it’s known you don’t have
You can also be harassed about a protected characteristic that someone knows you don’t actually have.
At work, some of your colleagues keep making comments and jokes saying you’re gay. They call you names and have on occasion left things like gay adult movies and magazines on your desk. They all know you’re not actually gay. You could have claim for harassment related to sexual orientation.
If you’re treated badly because of your reaction to harassment
If you’re treated badly or less favourably because of your reaction to harassment which is related to sex or gender reassignment, you may have a claim under the Equality Act. The Act says this is also harassment. You’re protected if you either reject or submit to the harassment.
The person who treats you less favourably can be the person who actually harassed you, but it can also be someone else.
If someone behaves in a way which makes you feel distressed, intimidated or offended and the behaviour is of a sexual nature, this is called sexual harassment.
You can report sexual misconduct to the university by using this link: Sexual Misconduct Support
Harassment can also be identified as other crimes such as Domestic Violence and Hate Crime
Definition of Domestic Violence or domestic abuse.
The Crown Prosecution service define domestic abuse as:
Domestic abuse, or domestic violence, is defined across Government as any incident of controlling, coercive or threatening behavior, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of their gender or sexuality.
If you have been intimate with or you are related to the person who is bullying/harassing you this could be domestic abuse.
You can find more information about domestic abuse from The West Lincolnshire Domestic Abuse Service
If you are being harassed because of a protected characteristic this may be a hate crime
Definition of Hate Crime.
The Crown Prosecution service defines a hate crime as
The term ‘hate crime’ can be used to describe a range of criminal behaviour where the perpetrator is motivated by hostility or demonstrates hostility towards the victim’s disability, race, religion, sexual orientation or transgender identity.
These aspects of a person’s identity are known as ‘protected characteristics’. A hate crime can include verbal abuse, intimidation, threats, harassment, assault and bullying, as well as damage to property. The perpetrator can also be a friend, carer or acquaintance who exploits their relationship with the victim for financial gain or some other criminal purpose.