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Sexualised Violence and Discrimination

Sexualised Violence and Discrimination

Sexism as well as sexualised discrimination and violence affect people of all genders and gender orientations. Our approach is based on a diverse gender concept and we explicitly protect and support every person who needs counselling or help due to sexualised discrimination and violence.

Individuals are exposed to different risk factors due to their gender, sexuality, (ascribed) ethnicity, religion, age, income class, work environment, etc. These also influence people' feelings of safety in making use of counselling services. The equal opportunities team at the South Westphalia University of Applied Sciences is committed to providing all members of our community with a counselling service that is adapted to their individual needs.

What is sexualised discrimination and violence?

Sexual discrimination and violence (SDV) in the academic and professional environment is any sexually motivated verbal, non-verbal or physical behaviour that violates people's dignity. It is crucial whether the person affected experiences a feeling of belittlement, humiliation or intimidation. This can be different for each person - because discrimination can take many forms and can happen anywhere at work or in education. Sexualised discrimination and violence is considered particularly serious if it takes place by exploiting a relationship of dependency at work or in education, possibly with the threat of disadvantages in studies or work or the promise of corresponding advantages. SDV is always an expression of power and has nothing to do with flirting. This includes, for example:

  • Suggestive comments about physical characteristics, appearance, clothing in speech or writing;
  • Snide comments with sexual content;
  • Snide comments referring to a person's gender or sexual orientation;
  • Discriminating jokes;
  • Indiscrete questions or allusion on someone's lifestlye;
  • Posting, distributing and displaying depictions of sexist or pornographic content;
  • Provocative and inappropriate behaviour, (sexually) degrading gestures;
  • Repeated and persistent staring;
  • Receiving unwanted gifts;
  • Request for sexual acts;
  • Unwanted touching and assault;
  • Unwanted physical closeness;
  • Forcing sexual acts, sexual coercion, rape;

Internal confidential counselling

When you have experienced or witnessed sexualised discrimination or harassment, or if you are unsure how to evaluate an experience or situation that was "kind of weird", you can contact any member of the central Equal Opportunities Team as well as the Equal Opportunities representatives on campus for confidential advice.

In addition to the central Equal Opportunities Team and the Equal Opportunities representatives on campus, students can also contact the student coaches for confidential counselling.

In a first meeting, you can describe your concerns and your problem situation. You will receive information about possible courses of action and support. Confidentiality is the highest principle. As a rule, it is not necessary to give your name. Further steps will only be taken with your express consent.

External confidential counselling

  • The Violence against women hotline. Women affected by violence and their supporters can call 08000 116 016 and get help in 17 different languages 24/7. The services are also available via online counselling. Barrier-free services are also available in German sign language, sign-written language and in easy language. You can find further information on the website of the helpline.
  • Helpline for men affected by violence. Men who are affected by domestic or sexual violence, stalking or forced marriage can seek advice by calling the free number 0800 123 99 000. Further information and virtual counselling is also available online on the website of the helpline.
  • The nationwide telephone helpline for individuals 'prone to crime' during the corona crisis is available by calling 0800 70 222 40 from Monday to Friday, 9.00 am - 6.00 pm.
  • Federal Association of Women's Counselling Centres and Women's Emergency Centres (bff). At the Bff you can get further information and find a counselling centre in your region. You can find further information on the website of the bff.
  • The project "Ways out of Violence for Women with Disabilities" provides barrier-free information for women with handicaps who have experienced violence.
  • Hate Aid helps victims of digital violence.
  • Weisser Ring supports victims of crime, among other things by providing human assistance and personal support, accompanying them to appointments with the police, public prosecutor's office and court, granting legal protection and financial support for crime-related emergencies. Online, on site or by phone at 116 006 7 days a week from 7.00 - 22.00.
  • The NO STALK app provided by Weisser Ring supports you in taking active and self-determined action against stalking.
  • Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency: Employees and employers can call (030) 18555 - 1855 or go online to enquire about legal issues related to harassment and violence at work.

Complaints Office

For specific complaints based on discrimination, you can contact all persons with leadership and supervisory functions at the South Westphalia University of Applied Sciences. Employees can lodge a complaint in accordance with § 13 of the General Equal Treatment Act (AGG). Persons with leadership and supervisory functions, as well as the AGG Complaints Office, are obliged to pursue every indication of cases of sexualised discrimination and violence and to initiate appropriate measures to clarify, prosecute and prevent them. Confidentiality cannot always be guaranteed. Anonymity is not possible at all levels in the case of a complaint. The wishes of the persons concerned are taken into account as far as possible and it is ensured that no personal, professional or educational disadvantages arise for the complainant.

We advise to seek confidential advice first before lodging a complaint.

AGG Complaints Office: Rector Prof. Dr. Claus Schuster or Chancellor Heinz-Joachim Henkemeier

Recommendations for action for persons affected

Everyone reacts in a different way to sexualised discrimination and every incident is different, so there are no standard approaches to solving the problem. Many of those affected are not able to react directly because the situation often leaves them speechless at first. A reaction to a situation can also be made later (if necessary, also in writing). Below you will find some possibilities that have proven to be helpful so far:

1. Listen to your feelings. If you feel uncomfortable or think that someone has exceeded your limits, you do not have to justify or be ashamed of it. A first difficulty is often to recognise that what you have experienced is in fact sexual harassment.

2. If possible, apply the "three-step model":
  • speak out what just has happened,
  • say what that does to you,
  • demand what the counterpart should or should not do in future.

For example: "Please keep a distance, I don't want you to get that close to me" or "These looks make me uncomfortable, please stop looking at me like that" or "This question is too intimate for me, I don't want to talk about it with you and in this context".

3. It is useful to prepare a memory log for oneself, no matter where and with whom something has happened. It allows you to become clear about the situation by noting when, who, where and with what intensity the incident took place. Briefly describe what happened. Note down important statements and other essential actions and sequences of actions as precisely as possible and in chronological order. How did the situation end? Are there any witnesses? If so, ask for their contact details and ask them to write their own memory log.

4. Talk to someone close to you or seek initial counselling (see above). In an initial counselling session, the conversation remains confidential and can also take place anonymously via a trusted intermediary. Further steps will not be taken without consultation or against your will.

Recommendations for action for first contact persons

The Equal Opportunities Team regularly offers workshops for first contacts of persons affected. For further information, see below under Further training.

It is very important that persons affcted do not feel alone. In particular because it is often difficult for them to take the necessary steps on their own, you should support them. Demonstrating supportive behaviour can strengthen those affected and sanction and even interrupt the harassing behaviour.

GOOD TO KNOW: If you observe sexual harassment, take action! Take the side of the person concerned, but keep in mind that the person concerned has the right to decide.

1. Listen and take things seriously.

2. Ensure confidentiality.

3. Keep your own point of view reserved for the time being. The person concerned must be able to get something off their chest without receiving supposedly helpful tips on how they would have reacted better in the situation.

4. Provide support:

  • Discuss together: What type of support would be helpful now?
  • What does the person concerned wish? What does the person concerned definitely not want?

5. Do not put the person under pressure.

6. Ask for permission to write down important notes, and if necessary recommend that a memory record of the incident be made.


Once an official complaint has been filed, violators can expect sanctions from the university after sufficient investigation of the allegations and in consultation with the person concerned and their need for anonymity and protection. The person concerned must not suffer negative consequences under any circumstances. When an incident has become public, it must be examined on a case-by-case basis to what extent provisional measures are to be implemented to protect the person concerned. Unconditional confidentiality applies to all parties involved. Possible sanctions include:

  • Formal official interview
  • Oral or written instruction/reminder/warning
  • Relocation, reassignment, termination
  • Initiation of disciplinary proceedings in the case of civil servants
  • Withdrawal of the teaching contract
  • Exclusion from the use of university facilities/courses
  • Ban on entering the premises according to house rules § 9
  • Exmatriculation
  • Filing a criminal complaint

Further training

The Equal Opportunities Team offers workshops on sexualised discrimination and violence. These provide participants with recommendations for action for first contact persons as well as for those who observe discrimination or violence and wish to intervene.

If you are interested in offering such a workshop for staff members of your faculty or department or also for students, please contact the Central Equal Opportunities Team.

Workshops on this topic are also offered at regular intervals at the university. We provide information about upcoming workshops under Events & Training.