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Sexual Harassment

The Working Group for Equal Opportunities' duties include advising and supporting the university's members (students, academic and non-academic staff), for example related to questions on sexual harassment, discrimination on the basis of gender, ethnicity, religion or conviction, age, or sexual orientation or other discrimination. In the following, you can find answers to the most frequently asked questions.


In case you should be affected by discrimination, sexual harassment, bullying or any other form of discrimination, you can make a personal appointment for a confidential consultation meeting. You can also turn to us anonymously.
Your request will in general be treated strictly confidential.


FAQs on sexual harassment

What actually is sexual harassment?

Sexual (also: sexualized) harassment is a form of violence and abuse. It's not a mutual approach, but an approach happening against the will of one of the parties concerned. Sexual harassment is also a form of psychological and physical violence. Harassers try to demonstrate power and dominance and violate the dignity of the individual concerned.

Sexual harassment is an offence that might result in legal consequences. According to the Equal Treatment Act, discrimination on the basis of gender is a failure to comply with obligations. Sexual harassment is clearly defined as such a discrimination on the basis of gender.

Often it may seem difficult to classify and process the experiences made. The borders between sexual approach and exercise of sexual power can become blurred. It might be helpful to reflect the situation and listen to yourself.

Sexuality is something mutual. Sexual acts happening without the agreement of one party can belong to sexual harassment. It is important to clearly express your rejection.

Source and further information: https://static.uni-graz.at/fileadmin/Akgl/3_Fuer_Betroffene/sex_belaest_net_09_2017.pdf

Beratungsstelle Tara



What can be considered sexual harassment in the workplace?

Sexual harassment in the workplace may be visual, verbal or physical, for example:

  • Pornographic images or pin-up pictures in the workspace (also on the computer)
  • Gazing and/or staring at somebody
  • Suggesting jokes, whistling, salacious remarks
  • Obvious verbal sexual remarks
  • Undesired invitations with a clear (defined) intention
  • Phone calls, letters, emails or text messages with sexual hints
  • Promising of professional advantages in case of sexual approval
  • Threatening of professional disadvantages in case of sexual refusal
  • Accidental/deliberate touching (e.g. pinching or patting the bottom)
  • Requesting sexual actions
  • Exhibitionist acts

Source and further information: https://www.help.gv.at/Portal.Node/hlpd/public/content/255/Seite.2550002.html


What may be the consequences of sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment may have different effects on the individual concerned. It can result in mental impairments, e.g. states of anxiety, nervousness, eating and sleeping disorders, nightmares, impairments of perception, difficulties in concentration and performance or depression. Furthermore, sexual harassment may also lead to physical consequences like headaches, digestive problems, circulatory problems, etc. Shame and embarrassment often play a role. Getting help from outside in this burdening situation may be helpful to overcome the mental and physical reactions.

Source and further information: http://www.taraweb.at/sexuelle-gewalt/


How can I defend myself?

Sexual harassment in the workplace is something wrong and individuals concerned should defend themselves. Ignoring, avoiding or changing habits usually does not lead to the desired result. Usually, the situation does not change and eventually becomes unbearable. The following possibilities could be considered:

  • Don't feel guilty.
  • Take your own feelings and perceptions seriously! What counts is your subjective feeling.
  • Defend yourself, don't ignore the harassing! Clearly express your resentment of undesired touching or other forms of intrusiveness! Reject the harassment strongly and directly.
  • Gather evidence! Keep a written record or diary in which you write down what happened.
  • Demand that such behaviour has to stop.
  • Talk about it! Talk to somebody you trust, but make sure that the information is treated confidentially. If the harasser does not stop the harassing, talk to your boss.
  • If you go public with the harassment, it is important that you have developed an appropriate strategy beforehand, because the harasser might deny the accusations.
  • People accused of sexual harassment tend to fight back. Lawsuits for defamation may follow. Therefore, it is important to look for allies and qualified supporters (Members of the Working Group for Equal Opportunities, Works Council, Austrian Students' Union,...).
  • Get professional help and take legal advice. You can turn to the members of the Working Group for Equal Opportunities any time and ask for a confidential conversation.

Source and further information: https://www.help.gv.at/Portal.Node/hlpd/public/content/255/Seite.2550005.html


What can I do, if my colleague is sexually harassed?

If you have witnessed sexual harassment, don’t look away, but actively approach the person concerned and offer help. The individual concerned may feel helpless and unable to cope with the situation. That is why you should offer support and don’t leave him or her alone in this exceptional situation.  

Important: Always treat the matter strictly confidential! 

Source and further information: Sexual harassment | Arbeiterkammer Steiermark


What can I do as a team leader/manager?

According to the Equal Treatment Act, employers are obliged to protect their employees from sexual harassment by colleagues or third parties. Therefore, it belongs to the responsibilities of managers to create a working environment in which sexual harassment has no space. The obligations of employers include, for example, the protection of sexual self-determination and privacy by offering specific and preventive relief, immediate intervention and clarification of the situation (cf. § 8 para. 1 clause 2 Equal Treatment Act). Managers have to take appropriate measures to protect individuals concerned. Managers are welcome to turn to the members of the Working Group for Equal Opportunities for a confidential conversation.


Where can I find further information on this topic? (First aid measures)

Further information is available in the brochure "Sexual harassment: Counter-strategies and suggestions for behaviour" (only available in German) by the Coordination Centre for Gender Studies and Equal Opportunities at the University of Graz as well as in the brochure "Sexual violence and trauma" (in German) by TARA Counselling Centre.

TARA Counselling Centre also offers material and counselling in English: http://www.taraweb.at/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/TARA_2017_07_EN.pdf.

Further material in English is available on our website as well.


Who can I contact if I'd like to talk to someone personally?

The members of the Working Group for Equal Opportunities are available for a confidential conversation (if desired, you can also contact us anonymously). All members are subject to the obligation of secrecy. Your personal request will in general be treated confidentially. Further measures will only be taken, if you clearly wish so. You can come for a personal conversation to clarify the situation for yourself, without taking further steps afterwards - you decide, if further measures should be taken or not. Consultation appointments can be arranged by sending an email to akgl(at)uni-graz.at or by phone: +43/316/380-1028.

Most of the confidential conversations are led by our chairperson, Ms. Maria Elisabeth Aigner, pastoral psychologist as well as life and social consultant, and by Ms. Ulrike Schustaczek, legal expert, mediator and coach. Our faculty delegates and members are also available for personal conversations.


Abstract of the Equal Treatment Act (§ 8 B-GlBG):
"What is sexual harassment?"


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Office of the Working Group for Equal Opportunities

Harrachgasse 34, 8010 Graz

Phone:+43 316 380 - 1026

Office hours: Mon.-Fri.
from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

The fastest way to schedule an appointment:

We are a LUIS*A-Spot!

Other points of contact:

Luis*a on Campus

Counseling Center TARA

Act4respect Telephone counselling

Women's helpline against violence: 0800 / 222 555 (free of charge throughout Austria)

uniHELP (for university members only)

Further points of contact for those seeking advice (only available in German)

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