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Breaking the Silence

Dealing with sexual harassment is a responsibility for everyone in the community. People won’t come forward, there won’t be an open discussion, unless there’s an environment in which people feel at least relatively safe. So each and every one of us has to try hard to create that environment.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Stephen Toope


There is no place for any form of harassment or sexual misconduct at the University of Cambridge.  The University is dedicated to creating and maintaining a safe, welcoming, inclusive and diverse community that nurtures a culture of mutual respect and consideration. All members of the University community must be able to thrive within their roles without fear of sexual violence, abuse, coercive behaviour or related misconduct.

Any form of harassment or sexual misconduct is contrary to the values and ideals of our shared community. Such behaviour subverts the University’s mission and core values, and diminishes the integrity and dignity of all parties. The University will continuously work to improve the prevention, response, support and investigation of all instances of harassment and sexual misconduct; and to enable staff and students to make disclosures without fear of reprisal.

The collegiate University's mission can be achieved only by collaboration. All members of the University community have an individual and a collective responsibility to ensure that their professional relationships are sensitive to the imbalances of power that exist within any organisation, and to promote a culture of inclusivity, underpinned by mutual respect.


What is ‘Breaking the Silence’?

The University’s Breaking the Silence campaign aims to prevent harassment and sexual misconduct affecting both staff and students by promoting a zero-tolerance culture, providing support and guidance, and having clear and fair procedures for handling allegations of harassment and sexual misconduct.

More information can be found at:


What is Harassment?

The University defines harassment as single or repeated incidents involving unwanted or unwarranted conduct towards another person which it is reasonable to think would have the effect of:

(i)            violating that other’s dignity or

(ii)          creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive environment for that person. 

The emphasis is on the impact of the behaviour on the individual rather than the intentions behind the behaviour. The Dignity@Work Policy Statement provides examples of behaviours which may amount to harassment or sexual harassment:

We all have a responsibility to do what we can to ensure that our behaviour towards others does not cross the line between acceptable and unacceptable.

The Department will continue to arrange and promote training and events that explore issues associated with dignity, respect, equality, diversity and inclusion, along with other sources of information, support, and advice.


Where can I get advice or support?

If you have concerns about someone’s behaviour towards yourself or others, even if you aren’t sure how significant the issue could be or whether or not it could be classed as harassment, you can seek confidential advice from the HR Office (, tel. 32615)

The University’s Breaking the Silence website provides a great deal of information, including advice for people who have been affected by sexual harassment, plus sources of support, possible courses of action including reporting mechanisms, and training and events. There is also information for people supporting others, and people who have been accused of sexual harassment.

The Dignity@Work policy and procedure outlines how members of the University are expected to treat one another, and the options available to staff and students who feel they have been subject to bullying, harassment, racial discrimination, sexual misconduct, or any other inappropriate or unacceptable behaviour:

This website also includes a link to the University’s Personal Relationships between Staff and Students Policy:

The Office of Student Conduct, Complaints and Appeals (OSCCA) website provides information on University procedures and support available to students and staff in relation to issues affecting students:


Sources of support within the Department and wider University

There are many people you can speak to in the University for advice or support on any concerns you may have (please see the link below for many contact details). For example, members of staff can speak to their manager or supervisor, a Dignity at Work contact, a Wellbeing Advocate, an HR representative, a union representative, and the Counselling Service. Students can speak to their college tutor, their supervisor, Director of Studies, the Student Advice Centre and the Counselling Service. The University has a Sexual Assault and Harassment Advisor who can provide support to undergraduates, in the form of emotional and practical support to anyone who has been raped, sexually assaulted, or harassed, recently or in the past: 

Details of a wide range of support can be found at:


What will happen if I speak to someone about my concerns?

If you have concerns about someone’s behaviour towards you, no matter how small, please seek advice or support.

You can find out about the potential options for addressing an issue before deciding whether or not you would like anything to be done, and without this automatically resulting in action being taken.

The only circumstance in which it may be necessary to take immediate action would be a situation in which someone was judged to be at risk of serious harm.


What type of training is available?

During Easter and Michaelmas Terms 2019 the Department is hosting sessions on ‘Where Do You Draw the Line’, looking at behaviours that can constitute harassment, the factors that might contribute to an environment in which bullying and harassment could occur, and how this can be addressed.

Staff will also be invited to take part in Active bystander training, and other relevant training sessions, in Michaelmas 2019.

The Personal and Professional Development (PPD) team provide the following training to assist with improving communication between people and handling difficult conversations: