Sexual harassment not only exists on the college campus, it flourishes. Raging hormones, newfound freedom, and cultural expectations about sexual behavior are factors that combine and contribute to the creation of an environment where sexual harassment is likely to occur.
The following advice about dealing with this ugly fact of life is addressed mainly to women. Men can also experience taunting of this sort but they are more likely not to be offended or threatened by it.
Women subjected to this type of harassment are often at risk physically, emotionally and socially. Their chances of college success decrease dramatically when unwanted sexual pressure becomes an issue of everyday life.
What constitutes sexual harassment?
Any joke, look, remark, touch or implication that is suggestive of physical attraction that is neither reciprocated or welcomed could be considered harassment. College aged women often put up with this type of behavior and write it off as flattery. There is nothing flattering about a wolf drooling over a piece of meat, ladies. Women need to learn to encourage honorable gestures of affection and discourage cruder forms of attention. Strutting around the campus dressed like a club dancer and then wondering why men won’t leave you alone isn’t helping this problem. Certain modes of dress all but invite men to ogle you and give them permission to be forward in their treatment of you. Women have the responsibility to refrain from enticing men by the way they act, dress, and speak. You can’t raise the alarm over sexual harassment when you’ve been flirting, manipulating, or playing the same game.
That being said, many cases of sexual harassment happen when a women is completely innocent and has done nothing to encourage this sort of treatment. All young ladies need to have a plan in place to help them address this problem should it arise in their lives. An isolated encounter of somebody whistling a cat call at you from a passing car probably doesn’t require much action on your part other than just ignoring them and moving on. Being in class with a student who won’t stop making innuendos, comments, or trying to touch you is another story. Harassment can be stopped in its tracks when a woman refuses to be the victim of it. Women need to confront their harassers early, publicly, and as directly as possible. Use short, commanding statements such as, “Don’t look at me like that” or “I don’t appreciate your sexist comments” or “Don’t touch me”. Stand up straight, look him in the eye, and have a facial expression of utter seriousness because body language says things our words don’t. Keep these encounters brief and do not be lured into a scene. This will end all inappropriate and unwanted attention in the majority of situations.
What can you do when you have demanded that a person stop harassing you and it continues?
Take it to the next level. Document incidents with tape recorders or your cell phone video camera if need be. Save any e-mails, notes, or other evidence of harassment as you would criminal evidence. Keep a written account of confrontations and make sure you alert your family and friends. Bring your big brother or boyfriend with you to scare this person off your trail. If you have tried everything in your own power and feel the situation has become dangerous, get the administration involved. You might be dealing with a professor or fellow student who will be held accountable for their actions and can be forcibly removed from the campus. If harassment is happening in the dorm or around town, don’t be afraid to file a police report. Rape, physical assault, intimidation, coercion, and emotional belittlement are nobody’s first amendment rights.
Do whatever it takes to eradicate sexual harassment from your daily experiences. You came to college to pursue an education and start a life for yourself. Don’t let some fool who wants to push you around come between you and your academic success.