How to deal with harassment
What you can do if you are being harassed
Written by spunout
Fact checked by experts and reviewed by young people.
Harassment is when someone behaves in a way that offends or makes a person feel distressed or intimidated. This could be through abusive comments and jokes both in person or online, insulting gestures and touching. If you’ve experienced this kind of behaviour there are things you can do to get help in dealing with the harassment and getting it to stop.
What is harassment?
Harassment is legally defined as any act or contact that is unwelcome and is offensive, humiliating or intimidating to a person. Someone can be harassed by one person or by a group of people. People who harass often do so because they believe the person they are harassing will be too afraid to speak up about the situation. They can often abuse their position of power believing the systems and structures around them will protect them from any negative consequences.
Harassment can involve:
- Threatening looks and stares
- Offensive gestures
- Damaging property
- Inappropriate touching, sexual or otherwise
- Verbal put-downs, threats and insults
- Written put-downs, threats and insults
- Showing someone offensive pictures
- Offensive texts, emails or calls
Where can harassment happen?
- In person
- Through texts and phone calls
- Through the post
What types of harassment are there?
- Sexual harassment: This involves any unwanted sexual contact, whether in the form of touching, suggestive comments or sexual assault
- Workplace harassment: This involves unreasonable demands by a colleague or boss, rumour spreading and verbal and psychological put downs and threats. Sexual harassment can also take place at work
- Psychological harassment: This is a form of harassment that is designed to wear the person down and cause them stress. It is generally done in an underhanded way, so that they can’t prove the harassment is happening
- Verbal harassment: This is any form of name calling, taunting or nasty comments
- Stalking: This is any form of unwanted and persistent attention from one person towards another
- Cyber bullying: This is any form of harassment done online such as on social media or messenger
How can harassment affect someone?
Being harassed can take a serious toll on both a person’s physical and mental health and will affect people in different ways. Some of the ways it can affect a person can include causing:
- Intense stress, depression and/or anxiety
- Sleep problems
- A loss in confidence
- Work/school performance to drop or causing someone to have to take time off work/school
What can I do if I’m being harassed?
Talk to someone
Dealing with discrimination, stigma and isolation can take its toll. Where possible speak to someone you feel comfortable with about what is happening to you. Friends and family can be there to support you and give advice on what you should do next.
Keep a diary
Keep note of any incidents of harassment that you are experiencing. Having a journal of what has happen may make it easier for you to recall events and prove they happened when speaking about them to an employer, the law or someone in a position of authority.
If the person is texting or messaging you online it is also important to take screen shots of all harassment.
Report the harassment
Report the harassment to a manager, teacher, lecturer or someone in authority. If a boss, teacher or senior is harassing you, then make the complaint to somebody else in charge.
If the harassment continues, make a formal complaint to your school, university, college or company. Write a letter of complaint with details of the harassment and make sure to keep a copy. You are also completely within your rights to report the harassment to the Gardaí.
Harassment at work
An employer can’t punish you if you report them for harassment or discrimination. This means it’s illegal for them to fire you or to treat you differently after you make a formal complaint.
Where can I go for support if I am being harassed?
- Citizens Information
- FLAC the Free Legal Advice Centre
- The Equality Commission in Northern Ireland
- The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission
- An Garda Siochánna
Need more information, advice or guidance?
We offer information, advice and guidance about the issues that matter to you. Our online Youth Information Chat service is for 16 to 25 year olds and is available Monday to Friday, 4pm to 8pm (excluding Bank Holidays).