Guidance for Individuals Affected by Sexual Misconduct
Sadly, large numbers of healthcare workers find themselves targets of sexual misconduct within their working environment. The statistics make it no less upsetting if you, as an individual experience this type of unacceptable behaviour.
The GMC defines Sexual misconduct as uninvited or unwelcome behaviour of a sexual nature, or which can reasonably be interpreted as sexual, that offends, embarrasses, harms, humiliates or intimidates an individual or group. 
Sexual harassment and sexual assault describe a spectrum of unacceptable behaviours. Many targets question if the behaviour they were subject to constitutes sexual misconduct. In the definition, if you did not wish for the behaviour to occur, and it made you feel uncomfortable, misconduct has occurred.
Sexual misconduct includes a wide range of behaviours, such as:
- Sexual comments or noises – for example, catcalling or wolf-whistling.
- Sexual gestures.
- Leering, staring or suggestive looks. This can include looking someone up and down.
- Sexual ‘jokes’.
- Sexual innuendos or suggestive comments.
- Unwanted sexual advances or flirting.
- Sexual requests or asking for sexual favours.
- Sending emails or texts with sexual content – for example, unwanted ‘sexts’ or ‘dick pics’.
- Sexual posts or contact on social media.
- Intrusive questions about a person’s private or sex life.
- Someone discussing their own sex life.
- Commenting on someone's body, appearance or what they’re wearing.
- Spreading sexual rumours.
- Standing close to someone.
- Displaying images of a sexual nature.
- Unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature – for example, brushing up against someone or hugging, kissing or massaging them.
- Indecent exposure.
- Taking a photo or video under another person's clothing – what is known as 'upskirting'. 
No-one ever deserves or asks for sexual harassment to happen. 100% of the blame lies with the perpetrator or perpetrators.
Making sense of unacceptable behaviours can be really upsetting and many individuals would prefer to deny that it ever happened, try to reinterpret events or may blame themselves for the events that have occurred.
- It is the person receiving the sexual behaviour who decides if it is unwanted NOT the person doing the behaviour.
- It doesn’t matter if other people think the unwanted sexual behaviour is okay, or if it is commonplace in the location it has happened in.
- It can be a one-off incident or repeated.
- Just because certain sexual behaviour was welcomed or not objected to in the past doesn’t mean that it can’t become unwanted.
Individuals impacted by sexual misconduct may experience unhappiness, anxiety, distress or may develop symptoms of burnout.
Or in this case… be listened to.
You may or may not wish to make a formal report about the behaviour you have received, however, just discussing what has happened with a trusted friend, colleague or mentor can really help you start to make sense of what has happened and share your burden.
You will be believed.
You will not be judged.
You may wish to discuss how you can be supported, you may wish to consider any actions you could take, you might need to consider if others need protecting from similar harm.
You do not need to face this issue alone. Friends, family and colleagues may be able to offer you support, however discussing such very personal issues with people you know can be very difficult. There are many professional organisations who can support you:
1. Rape Crisis England and Wales - A service for anyone who has been affected by rape, child sexual abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment or any other form of sexual violence – at any point in their life.
Helpline: 0808 500 2222
2. Rape Crisis Scotland - Helpline for anyone over 13 who has experienced sexual violence, no matter when or how it happened. Sexual harassment, whether at work or elsewhere, is a form of sexual violence.
3. Rape Crisis Northern Ireland - A support service for anyone who is 18 and over and has experienced serious sexual assault and rape in adulthood.
Helpline: 0800 0246 991
4. British Medical Association - Free and confidential 24/7 counselling line and peer support service open to all doctors and medical students.
Helpline: 0330 123 1245
5. Sexual Assault Referral Centres - Offer medical, practical and emotional support to anyone who has been raped, sexually assaulted or abused within the last 12 month.
6. The Samaritans - You don’t have to feel suicidal to get in touch. Only 1 person in 5 who calls Samaritans says that they feel suicidal.
Helpline: 116 123
7. Deanery - Your TPD or Head of School will offer confidential, non-judgmental practical support and signpost you to service that will help to support you such as Professional Support and Wellbeing Services.
There is a spectrum of actions that may be appropriate for you to take varying from immediate reporting of a rape to the police to keeping notes in case there is a pattern of behaviour that would cause you to act at a later date.
- Build up a picture of what is going on by keeping a note of dates and times of each incident; what happened and what was said. Keeping a log can show you and other people that you are experiencing a pattern of behaviour. One incident on its own may seem ‘trivial’ but small things which happen every day have a cumulative effect.
- Note any friends or witnesses who saw what happened or the effect on you.
- If you go to your GP, a counsellor or other service because of the harassment then make a note of this too.
- Keep copies of any texts or emails the harasser sends to you; screenshots of any social media and web-based incidents; and photos, for example of any stalking behaviour. Find out how to take a screenshot from the device you are using (phone, pc, mac, android).
Depending on the circumstances you may wish to take more direct action.
- If the person is simply unaware of the effect they are having, you may be able to get them to stop by telling them to do so. Let them know that it is not right; you do not want their attention; and dislike their behaviour. You could ask someone else to do this for you such as a trusted colleague. You could also put this in writing (keep a copy).
- Check out workplace policies covering, for example, sexual harassment/violence at work, health and safety at work, dignity at work, equal opportunities/gender equality, grievance and disciplinary procedures. Many organisations have formal procedures for dealing with sexual harassment. These documents describe the procedures and the steps to take.
- If informal methods do not work or are not safe to try, you may have to make a formal complaint to your employer.
- You could report the perpetrator to the police. If someone touches you on an intimate part of your body, this is a sexual assault. If someone is following you outside work, or harassing you through calls, texts or emails this could be defined as stalking if there are two or more incidents causing you to feel fear and alarm. Sexual assault and stalking are criminal offences.
- You may feel it is appropriate to report to the GMC or Nursing and Midwifery Council if the perpetrator is a registered professional.
 General Medical Council (2024) Identifying and Tackling Sexual Misconduct. Available at: https://www.gmc-uk.org/professional-standards/ethical-hub/identifying-and-tackling-sexual-misconduct Accessed: 09.12.2023
 Rape Crisis England & Wales (2024) What is Sexual Harassment? Available at: https://rapecrisis.org.uk/get-informed/types-of-sexual-violence/what-is-sexual-harassment/ Accessed: 09.12.2023
 Rape Crisis Scotland (2015) Information and support for anyone experiencing sexual violence and harassment in the workplace. Available at: https://www.rapecrisisscotland.org.uk/resources/sexualharassment.pdf Accessed: 09.12.2023