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Myths and Misconceptions

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There are many common misconceptions about types of sexually harassing behaviors.

1. Only women are harassed and only men are sexual harassers.
Anyone, regardless of gender, can be the victim of harassment or a harasser.

2. Harassment always occurs between a man and a woman.
Sexual harassment can be between people of the same gender or different genders.

3. The person who is directly harassed is the only victim.
Third parties who witness harassment or are aware of it may also be victims of harassment.

4. Harassment requires touching.
Sexual harassment does not need to have a physical component.

5. Harassment is always verbal.
Talking is not a necessary part of sexual harassment.

6. It was a compliment, so it's not harassment.
Even if a person intends their conduct to be flattering,  it may still be offensive to others.

7. It can't be harassment--he was only joking.
Even though a person intends their conduct to be funny,  it may still be offensive to others.

8. If the offensive conduct happens off-campus, it doesn't violate Stanford's Sexual Harassment Policy.
Inappropriate conduct that occurs off-campus between universitiy-affiliated friends or colleagues can violate Stanford's policy if it contributes to a hostile environment or involves quid-pro-quo harassment.

9. Harassment is motivated by a desire for sex.
Actually, sexual harassment is often motivated by dominance, power, and/or bullying.

10. If I ignore harassment, it will go away.
Unfortunately, ignoring harassment usually does not make it go away. In fact, the problem may get worse.

11. Sexual harassment occurs only when there is a power difference between the parties.
Sexual harassment can occur between peers, as well as betwen individuals in a hierarchical relationship.

12. The behavior must be repeated to be sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment could consist of repeated actions, or may arise from a single incident, if it is sufficiently egregious.