Sexual Harassment or Assault

Sexual Harassment or Assault

Sexual harassment and assault are a potentially traumatic experience that causes a variety of negative impacts on victims’ mental and physical health. Sexual harassment and assault can happen both on and off campus. Girls and women are not the only victims.

Psychological Impact

Sexual harassment and assault can be traumatizing. People who were being sexually harassed or assaulted may feel confused, powerless, shameful, and distressed of varying degrees. They may even blame themselves for what has happened. Given the gravity of the shock, fear, pain, and stress, it is not uncommon that some of their emotional responses and decisions may have delayed or changed over time.

Respond to Disclosure

  • Check if your friend is safe and whether he/she is concerned about safety.
  • Take what he/she says seriously.
  • Acknowledge the pain and distress. Do not trivialize or dismiss his/her feelings.
  • Do not press for details. It is never easy to disclose the experience. Let your friend tell you what he/she is ready to say at his/her own pace.
  • Avoid asking “why” they do or not do certain things. They may feel being blamed or judged.
  • Be sensitive about physical touch, even it is just a tap on the shoulder or a gentle hug to show support. Ask if it is okay before you do so.
  • If the assault is a recent incident, encourage the student to seek medical care. He/she may need evidentiary examination or healthcare advice.
  • Encourage your friend to get support and help them reach out to these resources. Do not impose your values on your friend. Let him/her make the decisions on disclosure, unless they are at risk.
  • Take care of yourself and seek support.

How Counselling Helps

Counsellors at CEDARS-CoPE can support students in understanding and managing the impacts of an incident, be it happened recently or in the past. We help them explore reporting options and access to other available support services. There is no time limit for addressing the experience and students are encouraged to seek help when they are ready, regardless of the elapsed time. Find out more on referring students to the Counselling and Psychological Services

Please also refer to Handling Sexual Harassment: A Guide for Staff and Students.

Off-campus Services


  • Equal Opportunity Commission (2019) Break the Silence: Report on Territory-wide Study on Sexual Harassment of University Students in Hong Kong.
  • Tung Wah Group of Hospitals CEASE Crisis Centre. Seeking help.
  • World Health Organization. (2003). Sexual violence: Prevalence, dynamics and consequences. Guideline for medico-legal care for victims of sexual violence. Geneva: World Health Organization.

Sexual Harassment or Assault