Spectrum of Harmful Behavior - VHA Assault and Harassment Prevention Office
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VHA Assault and Harassment Prevention Office


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Spectrum of Harmful Behavior

Spectrum of Harmful Behavior

Sexual assault or sexual harassment can have damaging and pervasive effects on the experiencer.* Unacceptable behavior can escalate to sexual harassment or even sexual assault. Incidents may have life-long consequences, regardless of where they appear on the spectrum of harmful behavior.

“Sexual assault is at its core a devastating abuse of power,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough has said. “Little can destroy institutional trust faster and more painfully than sexual harassment or assault, and I won’t tolerate it.”

Gauging Harmful Behavior


  • ICARE Values
  • Dignity and Respect
  • Civility
  • High Ethical Standards
  • Safe Environment
  • Stop the Line
  • Active Bystander
  • Accountability


  • Offensive Jokes or Insults
  • Rude or Disrespectful
  • Flirting
  • Rumors and Gosip


  • Cat Calls
  • Intentionally Misgender
  • Unwelcome Sexual Advances
  • Sexual Favors
  • Crude Gestures / Jokes
  • Bullying
  • Sexist Remarks
  • Stalking


  • Unwelcome Sexual Touching
  • Groping
  • Rape
  • Sexual Exploitation

* The individual who has been assaulted or harassed is referred to as the “experiencer.”