What does this look like?

Unacceptable behaviours, language and discrimination manifest in many ways including in


Problematic behaviour and language

In the pyramid of discrimination, problematic language includes sexist, homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic taunts and harmful 'banter’.

‘Banter’ is a loose expression covering what otherwise might be abusive behaviour on the basis that everyone participates willingly and on an equal level. It usually refers to the trading of jokes, insults, images, and actions. Using the word 'banter' or making light of inappropriate behaviour or language can be a way of justifying it or minimising its impact.

How people try to normalize discriminatory humour or ‘banter’

  • "But that's just how things are"

    • Courts have consistently stated that even if jokes are considered "normal" or "expected" in a group setting, it can amount to discrimination and harassment if anyone finds it demeaning.

  • "I honestly didn't mean to offend anyone. I'm not sexist, it was a joke"

    • Even if you are "joking" and meant no offense, if offense is taken then you could be subject to disciplinary measures. 

  • "It was private / in a closed group"

    • Even when using privacy settings, posts can be copied and forwarded to  others. It's safest to assume that nothing shared online is private.


What is Hate Crime?

A hate crime or incident is any behaviour that someone thinks was caused by hatred of or prejudice against a ‘protected characteristic’, for example those listed below. These are criminal offences and can be prosecuted accordingly.

  1. Disability

  2. Sexual orientation or gender identity

  3. Religion or faith

  4. Race

A hate crime can include

  • Graffiti or writing

  • Social media abuse

  • Verbal abuse including name calling and offensive jokes

  • Damage to property

  • Harassment or assault

  • Bullying

  • Intimidation and threats

  • Exploitation for financial gain or another criminal purpose

The Crown Prosecution Service has a helpful guide on what Hate Crime is and what to do about it as well as a guide for victims and witnesses.

Citizens Advice also has useful info on the difference between a hate crime and a hate incident

You can report a hate crime in York by


Harassment, abuse and threats

What are we talking about?

Harassment can take various forms but ultimately is behaviour which intentionally makes you feel uncomfortable, intimidated, or humiliated. This can include but is not limited to:

  • Manipulative or exclusionary behaviour

  • Generalising individuals based on demographic stereotypes

  • Use of prejudicial language (racist, homophobic, etc.)

  • Abusive physical confrontation or assault

What does it look like?

“I have been present where male students have discussed other female students – and women in general – in sexual and quite aggressively negative ways; when myself or others have expressed discomfort, we have been mocked and ostracised from that social group (not necessarily a bad thing to know who the idiots are, but it is difficult to have a working relationship with someone who you know regards all women as inferior, or as sexual objects).”  - NUS Hidden Marks report case study

“[I] act less stereotypically ‘black’ so people don’t perceive me this way and make assumptions about the way I will behave.” - NUS No Place for Hate: Race and Ethnicity report case study

“[I] don’t dress a certain way because it is ‘stereotypical’” of being a lesbian, even if I just like that style of appearance. [I] don’t hold hands or kiss my girlfriend in certain places or in public. [I] don’t go to certain places like gay bars in case I am attacked if seen going or leaving there.” - NUS No Place for Hate: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity report case study

“… I am concerned [about] problems due to being thought a fake/fraud/attention seeker – or being subject to stereotypes/jokes I hear about people with my identities when I am around people who do not know that I have those characteristics myself.” - NUS No Place for Hate: Disability report case study

“Being a young British Muslim I have had to slightly alter the way I behave when out in public, especially since the terror attacks in the last 10 years. It has made people a lot more aware of their surroundings especially on public transport. The slightest comment or action could cause someone to be nervous even when it’s pure innocence. I remember I substituted my rucksack for a shoulder bag and even changed the style of my beard just to eliminate any awkward situations.” - NUS No Place for Hate: Religion or Belief

When to ask for help

Lots of people who feel offended, humiliated, or even assaulted by another person find it difficult to work out whether it's okay to feel that way, or if they just need to 'grow a thicker skin'. Our message is clear: if it wasn't okay with you, then it wasn't okay. If you feel offended, humiliated, or weren't comfortable with something, then you've been treated in a way which isn't acceptable.

All reports of discrimination, student misconduct, unacceptable behaviour or language at UoY and at YUSU are taken very seriously and you will get the support you deserve.

If these behaviours are perpetrated against a ‘protected characteristic’ this can constitute a hate crime or incident and be prosecuted.


Rape and sexual assault

What constitutes rape / sexual assault?

A sexual assault is any sexual act that a person did not consent to, or is forced into against their will. It is a form of sexual violence and includes rape (an assault involving penetration of the vagina, anus or mouth), or other sexual offences, such as groping, forced kissing, child sexual abuse or the torture of a person in a sexual manner. People of all gender identities and sexual orientations can be victims of sexual assault, and perpetrators are not just strangers – they can be friends, family members or partners.

Further info:

The NHS website has very clear information about what sexual assault is, and where to get help.

The Crown Prosecution Service did a social media campaign in partnership with NUS  to get people talking about consent to sex within the context of sexual assault and rape, with a '#ConsentIs' guide to help people understand consent.

There is a help sheet available from the UoY Wellbeing self-help web pages and local charity Survive providing more information about the effects of rape and sexual assault.

What does it look like?

If someone intentionally grabs or touches you in a sexual way that you do not like, or you’re forced to kiss someone or do something else sexual against your will, this is classed as sexual assault. This includes sexual touching of any part of someone’s body, and it makes no difference whether you are clothed or not.

If you are forced to have penetrative sex with someone, or someone has sex with you without your consent or agreement, this is rape.

If you are drunk or unconscious you are legally unable to give your consent to sex. Having sex with a person who is incapacitated through alcohol or drugs is classified as rape.

The charity Rape Crisis does some excellent myth busting about sexual assault.