I went to see a therapist for help with my mental health and relationship issues, and after a series of events she spread open her legs in a sexually suggestive manner while telling me I was in a compromising situation (or maybe used the word position, can't remember). At first I thought "maybe I'm misinterpreting things" but then she did that again - spreading open her legs while telling me I was in a compromising position/situation. There was no reason to use the word "compromising" in the context either. I simply described how I was ignored and bullied. Previously, she also made fun of my anxiety as "you still have anxiety about something that concluded x months ago" and said "I can't answer multiple emails [paraphrased]" when I only emailed twice. One of the things I talked with her about was how I would receive complaints I emailed alot, when I didn't (just so you know the reason for the comment).

I made a complaint about this, but the comments I received indicate that they are saying that that does not constitute sexual harassment despite the fact that I wrote in the complaint document that the manner in which she opened her legs was sexually suggestive (i.e., not adjusting) and still they didn't investigate, didn't ask me further questions, didn't ask me for evidence (which I have), didn't ask me anything...

Am I misinterpreting things :( ?

Maybe she just opened her legs like that for adjustment reasons, but if I describe them in a manner as "sexually suggestive" would that not be a reasonable cause for concern to investigate? I'm feeling defeated because apparently this is not sexual harassment and I'm all over the place...if you were there sitting next to me, and that occurred to you...would you not feel sexually harassed?

I'm not asking whether or not my therapist did sexually harass me (because there may be no evidence to support this claim) I am asking whether what I described does constitute sexual harassment, assuming it is true

My university describes sexual harassment as:

"Sexual harassment occurs where there is an unwelcome sexual advance, or other unwelcome sexual behaviour, towards another person, in circumstances where it can reasonably be expected that the person will feel intimidated, humiliated or offended by the behaviour. The person’s age, religious beliefs, race or ethnic origin might be relevant in considering their likely reaction to the behaviour. The unwelcome behaviour might involve a request for sexual contact, but there are other types of conduct which can amount to harassment."

If what I described is sexual harassment and my university did not take me seriously, then that is a different kind of problem on my hands, than had I actually been sexually harassed...

My question is, does what I wrote constitute sexual harassment or not? Not whether or not I was sexually harased, not whether or not is sexual harassment allowed...it is simple whether or not I was sexually harassed.

I ask this because when I pointed this out to my University the person investigating my complaint beforehand who ignored what I would describe as sexual harassment, sent me a very upsettingly worded email, to say the least.


There is no way to objectively determine this here. Here is the legal situation. First, certain conduct by a university employee might constitute sexual discrimination. The university is not allowed to legally condone sexual discrimination, so if you file a complaint, they have to take some sort of action. The standard procedure is to have a fact-finding hearing, following procedures laid out by your university. They would take probably testimony from the complainant, and from the defendant, and anyone else that seemed relevant. Eventually they would make a decision, based on a balanced evaluation of the evidence. The theory is that if, on the basis of the evidence given, it is more likely than not that the defendant made a sexual advance that could not reasonably be interpreted as having been encouraged, then there would be a finding of sexual discrimination, and some disciplinary action. If there is a specific policy against staff responding positively to sexual advances (not unlikely, in this context), then the issue is even simpler: was there what could be reasonably interpreted as a sexual advance?

Certainly, the way you describe the situation makes it sound like a sexual advance, but in the real world, the legal determination is not based solely on your description of the events, the accused also gets to describe the events, and the jury decides who is more believable.

| improve this answer | |
  • One of my problems is that when I described this, it was not acknowledged, I was not probed for evidence, etc. I made this submission in my complaint, as part of a series of other submissions. The others are not related to sexual harassment, but this one is. I did not use the word "sexual harassment". The submission was through email. The background is that I was transferred to this therapist for help with my mental health, but she instead did the above. My University described it as "a reasonable management decision" that I was transferred to her in the final report which I find insulting.... – ElizaGrey Dec 21 '19 at 6:26
  • I am now arguing that what I described above does constitute sexual harassment, and that I should have been probed further for information and taken seriously. I am also arguing that my University should not have described me being transferred to her as "a reasonable management decision" given that she did the above. – ElizaGrey Dec 21 '19 at 6:27
  • So this is where it is important to file a formal complaint. You should probably get help from an advocacy group, or a lawyer. – user6726 Dec 21 '19 at 6:31
  • My complaint was formally filed though :( The report by my University was insulting. To be able to invest in legal advice, I need to first determine whether or not what I wrote above (my therapist spreading her legs open in a sexually suggestive manner) constitutes an unwanted sexual advance or sexual harassment. In my opinion it is but I know the law is complex. Thanks so much for the help, – ElizaGrey Dec 21 '19 at 6:35

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.