What is sexual misconduct? 

Sexual misconduct is unacceptable behaviour of a sexual nature. It can include: sexual harassment; sexual violence; intimate partner violence; sexual assault; grooming; coercion or bullying with sexual elements; sexual invitations and demands; comments; non-verbal communication; creation of atmospheres of discomfort; and promised resources or advancement in exchange for sexual access. Sexual misconduct is an abuse of power. 

The term ‘sexual harassment’ captures only some of the possible abuses of power that may occur. Sexual misconduct more specifically raises issues of unequal relationships, consent, and the prevention of equal access to education, opportunities and career progression. Intimate relationships between staff and students are strongly discouraged as detailed in the Staff and Student Personal Relationships Policy.

LSHTM understands sexual misconduct as an umbrella term. Read below to find out more about sexual harassment, sexual violence and domestic abuse. 

What is sexual assault?
Sexual assault is a criminal offence and contrary to LSHTM’s grievance and disciplinary procedures. A person commits sexual assault if they intentionally touch another person, the touching is sexual and the person does not consent. 

It involves all unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature and ranges from pinching, embracing, groping and kissing, to rape and sexual assault which involves penetration without consent. 

Consent is agreeing by choice and having the freedom and capacity to make that choice. 

A person is free to make a choice if nothing bad would happen to them if they said no. 

Capacity is about whether someone is physically and/or mentally able to make a choice and to understand the consequences of that choice. 

What is sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment is unwanted and unwelcome words, conduct, or behaviour of a sexual nature that has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, embarrassing, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the recipient. It is a misuse of personal or institutional power and often based on a person’s gender although it is rarely about sexual desire. 

For the purpose of this policy whether or not the harasser intended to be offensive is irrelevant. Sexual harassment is determined based on the impact it has on the target. A single incident or persistent behaviour can amount to harassment. 

Sexual harassment can range from behaviour that stems from obvious to anyone or subtler behaviour less obvious to either the person responsible for the behaviour, or to the recipient. Often the impact is not felt or witnessed immediately. The impact may go beyond the recipient to people who see or hear what happens or who try to offer support. 

Sexual harassment can include but is not limited to catcalling, following, making unnecessary and unwanted physical contact, sexual jokes and comments, giving unwelcome personal gifts, wolf-whistling, leering, derogatory comments, unwelcome comments about a person’s body or clothing, unwelcome questions about a person’s sex life and/or sexuality, engaging in unwelcome sexual propositions, invitations and flirtation, making somebody feel uncomfortable through displaying or sharing sexual material. Sexual harassment does not necessarily occur face to face and can be in the form of emails, visual images (such as sexually explicit pictures on walls in a shared environment), social media, telephone, text messages and image based sexual abuse such as revenge porn and upskirting. 

If you think you have been sexually harassed, it may be hard to know what to do or how to feel. What happened was not your fault. What you do next is your choice. 

What is domestic violence?
Domestic violence can be an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over, who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can include forced marriage, so-called ‘honour-based’ violence and ritual abuse. 

The abuse can include, but is not limited to: 

  • Psychological 
  • Physical 
  • Sexual 
  • Financial 
  • Emotional
Controlling behaviour is a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour. 

Coercive behaviour is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, frighten, isolate or create dependence. 

There are links and overlap between domestic violence and the continuum of sexual violence. 


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