Sexual harassment is a pervasive issue that has long been a significant concern in educational institutions. College campuses, with their diverse population and unique power dynamics, can be especially vulnerable to incidents of harassment. This is my story and I’m sharing it with the world.
Every generation has one or more people who are known for harassing those weaker than themselves, and more often, it is women who are the victims. Recently, a discussion on sexual harassment among female students was opened at my college. In order to provide assistance to victims of violence, and more importantly, safety and trust, I decided to try to do everything in my power to help others who have encountered or will encounter this problem, which is more common than we want to admit.
I divided this comprehensive text about sexual harassment into 10 chapters, each tackles one issue related to our academic community and how we can make our colleges and universities a more safer place for every student. I’m starting with my own story of sexual harassment which I experienced in my first year of med school.
Chapter 1: My story
I believe I was among the first at my college to have problems with this particular person, when I was the first year in medical school. It is a fellow student who is in the same year as me. The two of us initially met because I was researching something for our lecture activities we were both involved in. He contacted me privately, and that’s how the conversation started.
At first, everything was normal; we even met to discuss those activities we were assigned at the group level. Then, later on, we met at the university after my anatomy lecture when I told him something was unclear to me regarding our task. He then replied that we could meet at my place (I live alone) so he could explain the topic to me, and maybe we could order some drinks and food and enjoy ourselves.
I didn’t give him any reason for this proposal, but I didn’t want to take it the wrong way either; the guy was just trying. I kindly refused him and said I didn’t need help, but thanked him anyway. However, the story didn’t end there. One day, as we were walking near each other, he said in the middle of a normal conversation, “I know you just want to fuck!” to which I asked him to repeat what he said, as I didn’t understand him well.
What happened then?
He stopped at that moment, but continued to make such statements in further conversations. Suddenly, it seemed like he started following me. He was everywhere I was, even though I drew back from some mutual college activities. I began to run away from him at the college.
One day, while trying to avoid him, he found me in the library where I told him I couldn’t talk and rushed out, to which he sent me a message saying, “Almost got it, next time”. That same day, I saw him on the ground floor and hid on the first floor, then rushed out after he went up to the second floor.
At one point, as I was walking down the street, I just heard his voice calling me, and in panic, I called friends and family just to have someone with me. He caught up with me and tried to touch me in a strange way, like hugging me, and I yelled at him to leave me alone. Then I ran further away and later that day, I sent him a message to leave me alone and blocked him.
But harassment was not over yet
Again, the story didn’t end there. I was so scared that I immediately withdrew from that student group with some silly excuse that I couldn’t attend due to personal problems, but in reality, I didn’t tell anyone what was happening.
Later in the neuroscience group, we were supposed to choose an area we wanted to explore more in-depth that semester. I was interested in one area, while he was interested in another. However, he applied for everything I applied for. One day, I got so fed up with the thought of him that I canceled my attendance at a conference, again with a silly excuse, because I was extremely scared again.
I still see him now and then, but thank God, he hasn’t approached me in a very long time. The only thing that greatly disturbed me was seeing him walking his dog in front of my window. Of the entire campus, he walks right in front of my window! At that moment, I got so scared that I imagined him in my own house.
My current view on all of this
Now I’m better and have let it go. However, after that, I heard that I wasn’t the only one who had problems with him, and recently, similar things have been happening to younger students by some other perpetrator. I thought of keeping quiet, but then I realized I must do something. I decided to see what I could do to help other women. I reported him and encouraged other women to report him and other similar students.
I’ve always wanted to help other students with their coursework and studying alongside my own studies, either through social networks or a blog like this. Recently, as you can see, I decided to do so, but precisely because of the events I experienced related to sexual harassment, I’m doing this under the pseudonym MedBrane instead of using my full name.
Let’s finally dive deep into this problem
For many students, college is an exciting time for personal and intellectual growth, but sexual harassment can significantly impact their mental health, academic performance, and overall well-being. As such, it is crucial to create an environment in which students feel safe, respected, and empowered to pursue their education.
This blog post aims to provide an in-depth understanding of sexual harassment in colleges and student life by examining the various forms it can take and the potential perpetrators involved. I will discuss the importance of recognizing the signs of sexual harassment, understanding consent and personal boundaries, and the processes and resources available for reporting such incidents.
In addition, we will explore preventative measures, including awareness campaigns and the creation of a safe campus culture, as well as the significance of advocacy and activism. Finally, I will provide resources and guidance for survivors on their journey to healing and recovery. My hope is that, through this comprehensive exploration, I can contribute to a meaningful dialogue that leads to positive change and a safer, more inclusive educational environment for all.
Chapter 2: Introduction to Sexual Harassment in Universities
Sexual harassment is an unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature that can make a person feel uncomfortable, threatened, or humiliated. It is a pervasive issue that impacts individuals of all genders and backgrounds and can occur in various settings, including the workplace, public spaces, and educational institutions. In colleges, sexual harassment can involve students, professors, staff, or any combination thereof, and may significantly affect students’ mental health, academic performance, and overall well-being.
Let’s look at some numbers
The prevalence of sexual harassment on college campuses is alarming. According to a study by the Association of American Universities (AAU), more than 26% of undergraduate women and 7% of undergraduate men reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment or misconduct during their time in college. It is essential to acknowledge that these statistics likely underestimate the true scope of the problem, as many cases go unreported due to fear of retaliation, lack of understanding about the reporting process or simply by not participating in the survey.
Who are the victims?
One of the primary reasons why sexual harassment is particularly concerning in college settings is the unique power dynamics at play. Professors, staff, and older students (and even students of same age as it was in my own case) often hold authority over younger or physically weaker students, creating a power imbalance that can lead to exploitation or abuse. Additionally, college campuses are often characterized by close-knit communities and social networks, which can make it difficult for students to report incidents of harassment without fear of backlash or ostracism.
Sexual harassment can take various forms, including verbal, nonverbal, and physical behaviors. Examples of verbal harassment include inappropriate comments, sexual jokes, or unwanted advances, while nonverbal harassment may involve suggestive gestures, leering, or displaying explicit images. Physical harassment can range from unwanted touching to sexual assault. Regardless of the form it takes, sexual harassment is harmful and unacceptable.
Addressing sexual harassment
Addressing sexual harassment in college is crucial for several reasons. Firstly, it ensures that students can pursue their education in a safe and supportive environment, free from discrimination and abuse. Secondly, fostering a culture of respect and understanding on campus can contribute to the broader societal effort to combat sexual harassment and create a more inclusive world.
To effectively address sexual harassment in colleges, it is vital to implement comprehensive policies and procedures, provide resources and support for survivors, and promote awareness and education on the issue. This includes encouraging open dialogue, offering workshops on consent and bystander intervention, and providing clear guidelines for reporting and responding to incidents of harassment.
In this text, I will delve into the various aspects of sexual harassment in colleges and student life, exploring the types of perpetrators, recognizing the signs of harassment, and understanding consent and personal boundaries. I will also discuss the reporting process and the support systems in place for sexual harassment victims, as well as strategies for prevention, awareness campaigns, and advocacy. Finally, I will touch on the importance of healing and recovery for survivors of sexual harassment, providing resources and guidance for their journey.
Chapter 3: Identifying the Perpetrators
Sexual harassment in college settings can involve various individuals, including professors, staff members, and fellow students. Let’s now explore the different types of perpetrators and examine the power dynamics that can contribute to harassment in educational institutions.
As authority figures in the academic environment, professors hold a unique position of power over their students. This power imbalance can be exploited by some professors, leading to incidents of sexual harassment. Cases may involve inappropriate comments during lectures, unwelcome advances, or even attempts to solicit sexual favors in exchange for academic benefits, such as higher grades or research opportunities. It is crucial to recognize that the vast majority of professors are dedicated educators who do not engage in such behavior, but it is essential to address those who misuse their authority!
College staff, such as administrators, advisors, or facilities workers, can also be perpetrators of sexual harassment. Similar to professors, staff members often hold positions of power and may use this to exploit students. Staff-initiated harassment may involve inappropriate comments, unwanted advances, or leveraging their position to coerce students into non-consensual situations. It is important to recognize this behavior, as they can sometimes be vague and “accidental”, what they often try to sell us in their defense.
Sexual harassment can occur among students as well, and this is my personal experience. Peer-to-peer harassment may manifest in various ways, from verbal and nonverbal behaviors in social settings to incidents of sexual assault at parties or within dormitories. In some cases, power dynamics still play a role, such as when upperclassmen harass younger students, or student leaders exploit their status within organizations or sports teams. Or in my case, perpetrator was just physically stronger than me and knew I won’t be able to defend myself.
Understanding the power dynamics in educational settings is crucial in addressing sexual harassment. Power imbalances can be particularly pronounced in colleges, where students are often dependent on professors and staff for academic and personal support. The hierarchical nature of academia can sometimes facilitate a culture in which individuals with authority feel entitled to abuse their power. This can lead to an environment where students may be hesitant to report incidents of harassment, fearing retaliation or damage to their academic careers. All of this applies to me, as I didn’t recognize I was being harassed at first until the perpetrator realized he can push boundaries more and more.
To effectively combat sexual harassment in colleges, it is essential to create an environment where students feel empowered to report incidents without fear of reprisal, and where professors and staff are held accountable for their actions. This can be achieved through clear policies and procedures, robust support systems for survivors, and ongoing training and education for faculty and staff on recognizing and addressing sexual harassment.
Additionally, encouraging a culture of respect and understanding among students is vital. Encouraging open dialogue and providing education on consent and bystander intervention can help to create a more inclusive and supportive environment. Colleges should also prioritize diversity and inclusion initiatives, as research has shown that institutions with more diverse faculty and student bodies often have lower rates of harassment and discrimination.
Chapter 4: Recognizing the Signs of Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment can manifest in various forms, from subtle, seemingly innocuous behaviors to overt, aggressive actions. In my case, harassment was building up gradually from subtle forms to more aggressive ones. Recognizing the signs of sexual harassment is crucial for both identifying incidents when they occur and supporting victims in their healing process. In this chapter, we will discuss the different forms of sexual harassment, including verbal, nonverbal, and physical behaviors, and the impact of harassment on mental health and academic performance.
Verbal harassment includes inappropriate comments, sexual jokes, or unwelcome advances. Guy who was harassing me, after finding my phone number used to text me inappropriate messages mentioned above, recorded voice messages and talking to me in person in college, which scared shit out of me.
This can occur anywhere – in academic settings, such as during lectures or office hours, or in social situations, like parties or dormitories. Examples of verbal harassment may involve making suggestive remarks about a person’s appearance, using sexually explicit language, or pressuring someone into engaging in sexual activities. All of those applies to my experience, unfortunately.
Nonverbal harassment involves suggestive gestures, leering, or displaying explicit images. This type of harassment can be more difficult to identify, as it often involves subtle behaviors that may be dismissed as “harmless” or “just a joke.” Examples of nonverbal harassment include staring at someone in a suggestive manner, making inappropriate gestures, or sharing sexually explicit images or videos without consent. If it happens to you and you’re not sure what to think about it – it’s definitely a red flag and you should be careful. Either confront it directly or report it to someone, depending on your specific situation and judgement.
Physical harassment ranges from unwanted touching to sexual assault. This form of harassment may involve behaviors such as brushing up against someone intentionally, touching someone’s body without consent, or engaging in non-consensual sexual acts. All of these MUST be addressed immediately and reported if possible!
Sexual Harassment and Mental Health
The impact of sexual harassment on students’ mental health and academic performance can be significant. Survivors of harassment may experience feelings of shame, guilt, anxiety, and depression. These emotions can interfere with a student’s ability to focus on their studies, leading to lower grades or even dropping out of college altogether. Additionally, survivors may experience social isolation or feel unsupported by their college community, further exacerbating the negative effects of harassment.
Recognizing the signs of sexual harassment is the first step towards addressing the issue and supporting survivors. When students, faculty, and staff are educated on what constitutes harassment and how to identify it, they are better equipped to intervene when incidents occur or report them to the appropriate authorities.
Bystander intervention training is a valuable tool in empowering individuals to recognize and respond to incidents of sexual harassment. By teaching students and college personnel how to identify the signs of harassment, safely intervene when necessary, and support survivors, colleges can create a more supportive environment and help prevent future incidents.
Chapter 5: Understanding Consent and Boundaries
In our journey to create a safe and inclusive college environment, we must first understand the importance of consent and personal boundaries. Consent is a crucial aspect of any healthy relationship, whether it be romantic, sexual, or simply platonic. In this chapter, I will discuss the significance of clear communication, respecting personal boundaries, and the role of alcohol and drugs in consent-related incidents. As I delve into this sensitive topic, let’s remember that many of us may have experienced situations that challenged their boundaries, so I approach this subject with empathy and understanding.
What is consent?
Consent is a clear, voluntary, and affirmative agreement to engage in a specific activity. It is an ongoing process that can be revoked at any time, regardless of previous consent. Remember that “no” means “no,” and “maybe” or silence also does NOT mean “yes.” We must be mindful that consent cannot be assumed based on one’s clothing, relationship status, or previous actions. Everyone has the right to change their mind, and it is crucial to respect that decision.
Open communication is the key to understanding and respecting each other’s boundaries. Encourage honest conversations with your friends, partners, and peers about your comfort levels and personal limits. Remember, every person has unique boundaries, and it is essential to be aware of and respect them. By fostering an environment of open dialogue, we can promote mutual understanding and help prevent situations that might lead to harassment or assault.
The role of alcohol and drugs
The role of alcohol and drugs in consent-related incidents cannot be ignored. Intoxication can impair judgment and decision-making, which may lead to regrettable or non-consensual situations. It is important to note that consent cannot be given when a person is incapacitated due to alcohol or drugs. When interacting with someone who is intoxicated, exercise caution and prioritize their safety and well-being. If you are unsure about their ability to provide consent, it is best to wait until they are sober and able to make a clear decision.
As we discuss consent and boundaries, it is important to remember that this issue is deeply personal and emotional. Many of us have had experiences that tested our limits or left us feeling vulnerable. It is our collective responsibility to support one another, create a culture of understanding, and provide a safe space for open conversations about our experiences. In doing so, we can help each other heal and grow, while working together to prevent future incidents.
In the upcoming chapters, I will explore the reporting process and support systems for survivors of sexual harassment, as well as strategies for prevention and awareness campaigns. We will also discuss the role of advocacy and activism in creating a safer and more inclusive college environment.
Chapter 6: Navigating the Reporting Process and Seeking Support
The decision to report sexual harassment is an incredibly personal and emotional one. It often requires immense courage and strength to come forward and share one’s experience.
Decision to report
When deciding to report sexual harassment, many factors can influence a survivor’s decision, including fear of retaliation, concern for their reputation, or uncertainty about the reporting process. It is crucial to validate these concerns while also providing clear guidance and resources to help survivors make an informed choice.
Each college or university has its own specific reporting process, typically involving Title IX coordinators, campus security, or other designated personnel. It is essential to familiarize yourself with your institution’s reporting procedures and resources, which can often be found on the college’s website or through student services. Keep in mind that you have the option to report anonymously if you feel more comfortable doing so.
When reporting an incident, be prepared to provide as much information as possible, including details about the incident, the alleged perpetrator, messages you received from them (if any) and any potential witnesses. Remember that you have the right to bring a friend, family member, or counselor with you for support during the reporting process.
In addition to reporting the incident to your college or university, you may also choose to file a report with local law enforcement. This decision is entirely up to the survivor and should be made based on their individual needs and comfort levels. But if the harassment becomes physical, reaching out to law enforcement might even be your first choice.
You need support
Regardless of whether you choose to report the incident, it is essential to seek support from trusted friends, family members, or professionals. Many colleges and universities offer counseling services, support groups, and other resources specifically for survivors of sexual harassment or assault. These services can provide emotional support, as well as guidance on coping strategies and self-care.
Remember, healing is a personal journey, and each individual’s needs will be different. It is crucial to respect the choices and boundaries of survivors, allowing them the space and time they need to process their experiences and find their own path to healing.
As we discuss the reporting process and seeking support, it is important to approach these topics with empathy and understanding. Sexual harassment deeply affects not only the survivor but also their loved ones and the broader college community. By working together to create a supportive, inclusive environment, we can help survivors find the strength to heal and move forward.
Chapter 7: Prevention Strategies and Awareness Campaigns
Preventing sexual harassment in colleges and universities requires a collective effort, involving not only institutional policies and procedures but also the actions and attitudes of students, faculty, and staff. Let’s explore various prevention strategies and awareness campaigns that can help foster a culture of respect, empathy, and understanding within our college communities.
Education and training
Educating students, faculty, and staff about sexual harassment, consent, and personal boundaries is an essential first step in prevention. Colleges and universities should incorporate mandatory training sessions on these topics, emphasizing the importance of empathy, open communication, and respect for one another’s experiences and perspectives. I learned there are some programs with those kind of topics but there should be more of them, and more mandatory.
Bystander intervention programs
Encouraging students and college personnel to take an active role in preventing sexual harassment is crucial. Bystander intervention programs teach individuals how to recognize the signs of harassment, safely intervene in potentially harmful situations, and support survivors. These programs can help empower our college communities to stand up against harassment and create a safer environment for everyone. Here are some valuable online resources to get you started.
Here is also a video of 5 Ds of bystander intervention:
Raising awareness about sexual harassment and the resources available to survivors is vital in promoting a culture of support and understanding. Colleges and universities should implement awareness campaigns that not only inform students and staff about the issue but also encourage empathy and personal reflection. By sharing the stories of survivors, we can help break the silence surrounding sexual harassment and create a sense of shared responsibility in addressing this pervasive problem.
Creating safe spaces
Providing safe spaces for open dialogue and healing is essential in fostering a supportive environment for survivors of sexual harassment. Colleges and universities should consider establishing dedicated spaces for support groups, counseling services, and other resources specifically designed to help those affected by harassment. By offering these safe spaces, we can demonstrate our commitment to survivor support and healing.
As we discuss these prevention strategies and awareness campaigns, it is essential to remember that each of us has a role to play in addressing sexual harassment within our college communities.
Chapter 8: The Power of Advocacy and Activism
The fight against sexual harassment in colleges and universities extends beyond the campus walls, involving the tireless efforts of advocates and activists who work to raise awareness, demand change, and support survivors. Advocacy and activism have vital role in combating sexual harassment and nurturing a culture of empathy, understanding, and respect within our college communities.
Many survivors of sexual harassment find solace and strength in sharing their stories. By speaking out about their experiences, they not only raise awareness about the issue but also help break the silence that often surrounds sexual harassment. If you feel comfortable doing so, consider sharing your own story or amplifying the voices of others. By sharing these personal narratives, we can create a better and deeper understanding of the issue and inspire others to take action.
Supporting survivor-led initiatives
Numerous organizations and initiatives are led by survivors of sexual harassment and assault. These survivor-led efforts often focus on providing resources, support, and advocacy for those affected by harassment. By supporting these initiatives, we can empower survivors and contribute to creating a more supportive college environment.
Here you can find more about survivor-led approaches and better understand how they operate.
Engaging in activism
Activism can take many forms, from participating in protests and rallies to lobbying for policy changes at the local, state, or national level. By engaging in activism, we can demand accountability from our educational institutions and promote policies that prioritize the safety and well-being of all students. No matter how you choose to engage in activism, remember that your voice has power, and together, we can make a difference!
Building a supportive community
One of the most impactful ways to combat sexual harassment is by encouraging a supportive, empathetic, and understanding community. Encourage open conversations about consent, personal boundaries, and the impact of harassment on mental health and academic performance. By cultivating a culture of respect and empathy within our college communities, we can support survivors, raise awareness, and work together to prevent future incidents. Talking about this issue should be normal within the community.
The fight against sexual harassment is an emotional journey, one that requires courage, resilience, and a willingness to stand up for what is right.
Chapter 9: Embracing Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives
Creating a safe and supportive environment in colleges and academia in general requires more than just addressing sexual harassment. It also involves fostering a culture of diversity and inclusion that celebrates and respects the unique identities and experiences of all students.
Here I will address the importance of diversity and inclusion initiatives in promoting a more empathetic and understanding academic community, and how these efforts can contribute to a safer environment.
The experiences of individuals who face sexual harassment can be shaped by factors such as race, gender, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. By recognizing the intersectionality of these experiences, we can get a deeper understanding of the complexities involved in addressing sexual harassment and work towards creating a more inclusive environment that supports all students.
Encouraging diverse perspectives
Encouraging open dialogue and the sharing of diverse perspectives can help break down barriers and foster understanding between different groups within our college communities. By actively seeking out and engaging with diverse voices, we can challenge our own assumptions and biases, and ultimately work towards a more inclusive and empathetic college experience for everyone.
Supporting underrepresented groups
Colleges and universities should actively work to support underrepresented groups within their communities, whether through resource centers, mentorship programs, or targeted initiatives. By providing resources and support for these groups, we can contribute to a more inclusive college experience and help ensure that all students feel valued and respected.
Chapter 10: Addressing Systemic Issues and Seeking Solutions
To effectively combat sexual harassment in colleges and universities, we must not only focus on individual actions but also address the systemic issues that contribute to a culture that enables harassment. What are the root causes of these systemic issues? Also let’s examine potential solutions that can help create a safer, more inclusive environment for all students.
Lack of accountability
I already talked about power dynamics. But what about lack of accountability? When colleges and universities do not adequately address reports of sexual harassment, a culture of impunity can take hold, leaving perpetrators feeling as though they can act without consequence. To address this issue, institutions must establish clear policies and procedures for handling reports of harassment, ensuring that both victims and perpetrators are treated fairly and transparently. Some of them have really great system and accountability is on a high level. But some still need a lot of improvement.
For example, after several students reported being harassed by a prominent faculty member at my friends college, the college administration failed to take any disciplinary action, citing a lack of concrete evidence. This lack of accountability not only emboldened the perpetrator but also discouraged other victims from coming forward. By establishing a clear process for handling reports, we can hold perpetrators accountable and send a message that harassment will not be tolerated.
Inadequate support for survivors
When survivors of sexual harassment do not receive the support they need, they may be left feeling isolated, vulnerable, and discouraged from seeking help. Colleges and universities MUST prioritize survivor support, offering resources such as counseling services, support groups, and advocacy programs.
Through shared examples, stories and experiences, we can inspire a sense of collective responsibility in addressing the root causes of sexual harassment in college settings, don’t we?
Hopefully my deep dive into these issues helped, at least someone who stumbled upon my writing.