Below are frequently asked questions about sexual harassment, from middle school students:
1. How will I be able to tell my parents?
Telling someone that you have been sexually harassed, can be difficult. However, that feeling of being uncomfortable, is only going to last a short period of time. There is nothing to be ashamed of, or embarrassed about. The harassment is never your fault. Once you have told your parents, things tend to go a lot smoother. For example, if you decide to report the harassment, your parents can help you through the process. They can make sure that everything is going to be resolved. They can also help you with any emotional support you might need.
- What helps prevent people from starting to harass others?
Educating people about sexual harassment, like I did with all of you, is important. Some people are not aware of what sexual harassment is, until they learn about. It was my hope that when I presented to you, if you were not aware of what it was, you could learn about it, and be aware of it as well.
- How could it be harassment if the harasser doesn’t know it is uncomfortable?
Sometimes, the harasser may not be aware that their behavior is bothering or upsetting someone else. Body language and speaking up (if you are comfortable doing so), is very important in these situations. That way, the harasser knows that they are making you uncomfortable, making them more likely to stop.
- Why does it happen so often?
Most times, sexual harassment is about power or control over another person. A lot of people also do not think it is a big deal. People may not also be aware that what they are doing, is sexual harassment. If people are not aware that their actions are affecting someone, they may continue to engage in that behavior. That is why it’s helpful to enlist the support of an adult, so that the behavior stops.
- What if sexual harassment keeps happening even when a teacher or adult knows and has spoken to the person?
If someone is sexually harassed, and they continue to be harassed after they have told an adult about it, and the harasser has been spoken to, they should report that information about the harasser to an adult again. It is very important to continue to report any continual incidents of sexual harassment, even after an adult has been notified. Sexual Harassment is taken very seriously in this school district, both at the junior high and high school level. Further disciplinary action will most likely be taken. If it does continue, keep telling someone, and ask for your parents help if necessary.
- What do people want to achieve from sexual harassment?
Most times, sexual harassment is about power. It is about having power and control over another person. Some people think that it is “funny” to harass someone else. So, some people do it to achieve satisfaction of making someone else feel uncomfortable. Others do it to get attention.
- When will you know the right time to report it?
There is no “right” time to report sexual harassment. It is different for everyone. However, while there is no right time, it is highly recommended that if you report sexual harassment, that you do it as soon as it occurs. The reason for this is that the process of reporting will go a lot smoother because you will be able to remember everything you need to that pertains to the incident. But, you can still report it later on, if you feel the need to do so. Ultimately, you should report it whenever you feel ready to deal with it.
- What should people do if the victim is afraid people will find out they told and will get made fun of for telling?
While it may be difficult to report sexual harassment, in fear of other people finding out, it is most definitely worth it. Even if people do find out, it shouldn’t matter because the victim is never to blame for the harassment. Sexual harassment is very serious, and is no laughing matter. Also, if you report sexual harassment, it will be kept as confidential as possible, so that other people don’t find out.
- What if both sides are okay with it, but they are both unsure about it?
If two people are okay with it, but both unsure about it, there is one important thing to remember: Active and continued consent. It is important to make sure that both sides are continually agreeing to what is occurring. That is why it is important to look for signs of uncomfortableness from each party. For example, using body language, or speaking up is important to notice that that person may not want to continue to be engaged in that behavior. If these signs do occur, the best option is to stop, which is best for both parties.
- Is it still sexual harassment if it is only one time, yet after you say no, the person continues to act inappropriately towards the person?
Yes. Sometimes it can still be considered sexual harassment if it only occurs one time, if it is severe enough. However, if it only happens once, and you say no, and they continue to do it, it is considered sexual harassment. You told them to stop, and they continued to do it, so it is still sexual harassment.
- If someone or a friend was a victim of sexual harassment, but wouldn’t say anything, how would you know?
When someone is sexually harassed, they may be feeling a lot of emotions. For example, some people may feel withdrawn and not want to discuss it. So, you may not know right away. But, it is important to look for signs of different behavior. Like I mentioned above, they may feel withdrawn from others, they may be more quiet than usual, or they may not go to school for fear of continual harassment. But, if you do notice a change in behavior, it is a good idea to ask them if they are okay, and help them get support.
- Is it still sexual harassment if a girl harasses a guy?
Sexual Harassment can occur between both genders. Guys can harass girls, girls can harass guys, guys can harass other guys, and girls can harass other girls. It does not discriminate.
- If two people are dating, and the other person makes them uncomfortable is that still sexual harassment?
Regardless if two people are dating or not, if one person makes the other person uncomfortable, it is still sexual harassment. Dating is not an exception to the rule. If someone makes you uncomfortable and you tell them to stop, and they don’t, it’s sexual harassment.
- How do I know if I’m being sexually harassed when I don’t know?
When you are sexually harassed, you feel uncomfortable. So, for example, someone could be verbally harassing you, which could include, any comments, or jokes that have a sexual nature. Or, if someone is physically harassing you, that could include touching you in a sexual way.
- How can you end sexual harassment?
You can not put an end to sexual harassment all together, but education and prevention is important. Educating people on sexual harassment is crucial. Informing people about what sexual harassment is, and making people aware of it, can hopefully reduce the frequency of it occurring. Also, informing people about setting boundaries is important as well as making sure people know to respect each other. But, if you are being sexually harassed, it is important that you try to remove yourself from the situation, and talk to adult and have them advise you further.