Breaking the Stigma: Exposures of sexual harassment long overdue

Allegations have flooded newsstands, accusations spiral throughout Hollywood and victims’ unheard voices continue to surface as more stories of sexual violence and harassment are illustrated throughout the press. Sexual harassment has literally been the talk of the town.

Famous movie directors, politicians and citizens around the country are being accused, our president openly discussing “locker room” talk and, of course, it happens everywhere.

Yes, even locally, in our home town.  But where do we draw the lines?

House Speaker, Paul Ryan announced on Tuesday, Nov. 14, that the House will be making a policy change in order to have all members and staff undergo anti-harassment training, due to a stunning hearing prior to this policy change, of lawmakers acknowledging that sexual harassment is a prominent issue.

If you’re not ready to hear the politics side of this heavy topic, let me throw some statistics at you first.

According to the National Statistics of EndSexualViolencect.org, one in every four women and one in every six men, will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes.

One of every six women and one of every 33 men will experience attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. Those are heartbreaking numbers.

As a young woman, I have personally endured many struggles and have seen the tragedies that have struck our country since growing up. It is no secret that women, no matter the age, feel they need protection due to unsafe circumstances.

We are told, make sure to be aware of your surroundings. Walk with your head high and keys out.  We are asked, do you have a rape whistle? Pepper spray? Were you flirting? Was alcohol or drugs involved? What were you doing to bring this behavior on? And, my personal favorite, what were you wearing?

When will it be time for the questions to stop? To me, it is taken as a blame game instead of taking it as a serious topic.

So, to address the elephant in the room, what exactly is sexual harassment/sexual violence?

Sexual harassment/violence includes any unwanted sexual comments, physical advances or gestures, as well as behaviors made toward another person.

A simple catcall or flirting can automatically turn into a dangerous game when it comes to the point of the person on the receiving end becoming uncomfortable if that target person communicates the actions are unwanted and the other person does not intend on stopping.

As many students know, science teacher Marcey Hand is very close with her students, receiving a lot of trust and communication with many of the teenagers in the building and graduates.

Being a mandated reporter, Hand said she has dealt with frequent sexual harassment issues in her time of teaching.

“I’d say it’s a frequent encounter, but students just don’t talk about it. Sometimes I think this is because they don’t realize it’s harassment or they don’t want to make a big deal about it. That being said, we should talk about it more and address the issue,” Hand said.

As for the opinions of drinking and sexual harassment or the way people dress, Hand has very strong opinions on both, that I very much agree with.

With drinking, Hand said she feels that there can’t be true consent given when a person is under the influence.

“Any sexual encounter where one or both of the individuals involved isn’t sober is a bad situation waiting to happen,” she said.

And, to those people all around the world who blame victims of rape, sexual assault, harassment, etc. for their appearances, Hand said she believes that is bull crap.

“I’m not saying that people are making the best decisions when they dress or act a certain way, and, yes, they are more likely to attract comments and advances that are some form of sexual harassment. That being said, harassment is harassment no matter how the person is dressed, etc.”

With the teacher side coming out, Hand said that as a community, we should talk about sexual harassment more. Awareness about this horrifying topic should come to surface, and we should discuss how much it actually happens and educate everyone on what counts as harassment.

“I think the biggest problem is we don’t talk about the issue and don’t educate ourselves on the topic. Because this is true here, at CFHS we definitely don’t deal with the issues as well as we could,” Hand said.

Once again, I agree with Hand. I feel as though I am just learning about what counts as harassment, assault, violence, rape, etc. by taking her social issues class and actually discussing our opinions.

Everyone is going to have their own opinions, yes. But this is a new time. Thirty five years ago, when sexual harassment happened, very few people talked about it as we have of late. It was to be shied away from, swept under the rug — especially by women, due to not wanting to lose their jobs, bring attention to themselves or get hurt even more, but that has to change.

Times are changing, the men and women who are being harassed and assaulted, which are thousands upon millions of people, are begging for their voices to be heard for change.

Constantly in the media, stories are appearing, and you hear rumors spread through the community and secret whispers because, why? We don’t talk about it enough.

Sexual harassment, violence, assault, rape, etc. exists everywhere, and it’s time to stop reminding perverted men and women, time after time, that’s it’s wrong, and they can get off scot free.

This is common sense. There is no need for a small tap on the wrist but a punishment for these behaviors. Our community and our society needs to progressively move forward, together, and quit taking these horrendous situations lightly.

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