What is harassment? He aha te hawene?

Learn to identify different forms of harassment, including gender-based and sexual harassment, racial discrimination and bullying.


If someone is behaving towards you in an unwelcome way that is offensive, humiliating or intimidating, it could be harassment. Harassment can be ongoing and repeated, or it can be a one-off act that is so significant it negatively impacts your social life, work or study.

Harassment can be by an individual or a group. It could be:

  • physical, such as gestures or touching
  • verbal, such as name calling
  • non-verbal, such as texts or emails, or leaving upsetting things for you to find.

The behaviour could be in person or it could be expressed online (including in social media), by texts or phone calls.

Harassment of any kind is not acceptable and is not tolerated at Massey. You have the right to be free from harassment and to be treated with dignity and respect.

Behaviours that are not harassment

It may be hard to tell if a behaviour is harassment or not, but if it makes you feel vulnerable or uneasy, talk about it with us. These behaviours would not be considered harassment:

  • friendly exchanges or compliments that you both accept
  • friendships or relationships that you both want to be in
  • assertively expressing an opinion that is different from someone else's
  • openly discussing issues or concerns without personal insults
  • criticisms of another student's behaviour or academic performance that are based on fact and expressed in a kind or helpful manner
  • using words or actions to advance knowledge or critically debate something without targeting individuals.

Types of harassment

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature. It is against the law, whether or not the person intends to harass you. Examples of sexual harassment are:

  • offensive comments of a sexual nature
  • implying or stating a reward (or threat) in exchange for your response to a sexually-oriented request
  • unwelcome physical contact
  • sharing intimate images or videos online without your consent
  • sexual or smutty jokes
  • many other unwelcome behaviours of a sexual nature (whether obvious or subtle).

Sexual harassment is a type of sexually harmful behaviour.

Get specific sexual harm support
More about sexual harassment on the Human Rights Commission website

Gender-based harassment

Gender-based harassment focuses on:

  • gender stereotypes
  • your sexual orientation
  • your gender identity.

Gender-based harassment is not necessarily about sex. It is often about making you feel unwelcome, humiliated, unsafe or intimidated just because you are a woman or LGBTQIA+ or simply different from someone else.

More about gender-based harassment on the Community Law website

Racial harassment

Racial harassment focuses on your race, colour, ethnic or national origin. Someone who is racially harassing you might:

  • make jokes about your race
  • call you by racist names
  • make offensive remarks about your race
  • use other unwelcome behaviours.

Even if somebody does not mean to racially harass you, they can still be held responsible.

Racial discrimination

Racial discrimination is when someone treats you unfairly or less favourably than another person in the same or similar situation because you have a different skin colour, racial or ethnic origin. If someone is racially harassing you it might be an expression of racial discrimination.

More about racial harassment and discrimination on the Human Rights Commission website

Personal harassment

Personal harassment is any kind of unwelcome behaviour that is offensive, humiliating or intimidating. Someone who is personally harassing you might use:

  • abusive or threatening language
  • verbal or physical threats
  • physical assault.


Bullying is a form of personal harassment that is repeated and does not stop. It involves abuse of power in a relationship. Someone who is bullying you might:

  • be threatening and intimidating
  • manipulate you into doing things you don't want to
  • use verbal abuse, swear or call you names
  • constantly humiliate you
  • deliberately ignore, exclude or blank you, including online
  • make belittling or demeaning remarks to you, or about you, to others
  • deliberately keep information from you that you need to perform your studies
  • use other bullying behaviours.

Bullying is not acceptable in any form.

More about bullying on the Bully Free NZ website

Other forms of harassment

Other forms of harassment you may come across include:

  • religious harassment, related to your religious beliefs
  • disability-based harassment, if you live with a disability or know someone else who does
  • age-based harassment
  • physical harassment, such as violence.

Harassment of any kind is not okay at Massey.

Words on harassment from our resolution team

"Harassment is a type of inappropriate power, an issue that is not desired, and humiliates or offends or intimidates a person. We as individuals must do our best to make sure that such a thing does not occur anywhere." — Rana Ravindran, Harassment Contact Person

"I know how distressing harassment and bullying can be. I also know that it is often the most good natured people that bullies target (and sometimes the most gifted people too). If you are being harassed, there are ways of taking back your power." — Heather Kavan, Harassment Contact Person

"I believe that all people deserve their chance to be whoever they want to be, without any discrimination." — Karl Puohotaua, Harassment Contact Person

"What we allow is what will continue. There should be zero tolerance for harassment." — Emma Liu, Harassment Contact Person

Related content

Sexual harm help & support

Sexual harm is not okay. If you are feeling unsafe, or have experienced or seen behaviour that concerns you, you can report it and get support.

Students walking in the distance on campus Students walking in the distance on campus Students walking in the distance on campus Students walking in the distance on campus

Stopping harassment & discrimination

We will help you stop harassment of any kind if it occurs – sexual, racial, gender-oriented, online and more.

Counselling services

You can get counselling support if you need help to work through and understand your problems.

Person leaning forward while seated on a couch, while counsellor holds clipboard Person leaning forward while seated on a couch, while counsellor holds clipboard Person leaning forward while seated on a couch, while counsellor holds clipboard Person leaning forward while seated on a couch, while counsellor holds clipboard