STOP! Abuse of power and sexual harassment

Recognising sexual harassment and setting boundaries

Sexual harassment is not tolerated at our university in any way. On these pages we would like to inform you about what sexual harassment actually is, how we recognise it and what we can do about it.

  • What is sexual harassment?

    Sexual harassment describes any sexualised behaviour that is not desired. This can be expressed verbally, non-verbally or physically and violates the dignity of the person concerned.

    Sexual harassment can affect all genders, both female and male, trans* and intersex people, although girls and women are particularly likely to be victims.

    Those affected often feel hurt, degraded and disturbed by the perpetrator’s behaviour, and it is not uncommon for a climate of insecurity and fear to develop.

    Sexual harassment is a one-sided behaviour – it is therefore fundamentally different from consensual flirting and similar interactions.

    In assessing whether conduct is harassing, it is not the intention of the person acting that is decisive, but the effect on the person affected.

  • How can sexual harassment manifest itself?

    Sexual harassment can be expressed verbally, non-verbally or physically.


    • sexually suggestive remarks and jokes
    • intrusive or offensive comments about appearance, physical features, behaviour or private life
    • questions with sexual content, e.g. about private life or intimacy
    • solicitations for intimate or sexual acts or meetings


    • intrusive or intimidating stares, or suggestive glances
    • sexual gestures
    • satcalling (whistling)
    • letters or messages with suggestive content
    • intrusive advances on social networks
    • undue exposure
    • showing pornographic images
    • stalking


    • unwanted touching (e.g. patting, stroking, pinching, hugging, kissing), even if it is casual or seemingly accidental
    • repeated physical approach and repeated failure to maintain an appropriate physical distance (approx. one arm’s length).
    • sexualised violence and assaults up to and including sexual assault and rape
  • What can the effects be?

    Affected persons often feel hurt, degraded and disturbed by the perpetrator’s behaviour, and it is not uncommon for a climate of insecurity and fear to develop. There can be short-term and long-term consequences.

    Short-term consequences for those affected:

    • fear and helplessness
    • shock and numbness
    • disgust, guilt or shame
    • anger and aggression
    • sleep problems
    • headaches, stomach aches and digestive problems
    • general feeling of unease

    Long-term consequences for those affected:

    • loss of confidence in self and others
    • difficulties in relationships
    • feeling of inferiority
    • concentration disorders and reduced performance
    • physical discomfort
    • anxiety and depression
    • panic attacks and flashbacks
    • incapacity to work
  • Where can sexual harassment occur?

    Sexual harassment can occur in all areas of a university and can affect all groups of people, whether teachers, administrators or students. At universities or colleges, certain factors can make the situation more difficult for victims and easier for perpetrators.

    Especially in the context of individual training at a university of music, dance and theatre, there is often a specific personal closeness between teachers and students and thus a special form of dependency. Also in seminars and excersises, especially in the fields of ballet, theatre and musical theatre, there are intimate and at the same time hierarchical structures that favour abuse of power and boundary violations.

    A representative survey conducted by the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency in 2019 shows how widespread sexual harassment is in the workplace. Those affected usually do not dare to talk about what they have experienced due to insecurity or shame, so that the number of unreported cases is estimated to be much higher.

  • What can I do if I have been sexually harassed?

    Victims of sexual harassment are often ashamed of what happened to them and keep quiet about the assault out of fear and insecurity. They may even feel guilty. Yet the harassing behaviour is a clear transgression of the perpetrator’s boundaries.

    It is sometimes difficult for those affected to judge whether an assault has taken place. The following applies: Trust your intuition and take the perception of your personal boundaries seriously. If you are unsure, ask someone you trust how they would assess the situation.

    Depending on your individual situation, there are different ways to distance yourself and set boundaries.

    • You can look for allies and take advantage of free help and support. There are numerous internal and external options available to you at our university, including the network of confidants, the team of Women’s and Equal Opportunities Represantatives or the Student Council.
    • If you are able to do so, you can seek direct or written confrontation with the harassing person in which the behaviour is addressed. Both ways of communication that set boundaries can also be prepared and »practised« with confidants.
    • If possible, try to avoid situations where you are alone with the harassing person, leave the doors open or take a companion with you.
    • Journal situations or behaviours that make you uncomfortable so that you can better assess the situation and talk about it with others.
    • As a student, you can request a change of teacher in urgent cases, even without meeting the official deadlines.