Our statement on the recent stories of sexual harassment and assault in the Political environment, the media and Hollywood:

As I am sure most of you know, we have seen a steep incline in news reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault by well-known men in a few different industries: movie producers, actors, politicians, journalists, and I’m sure there are some that I am missing. Which, brings me to a major issue that I want to point out, in light of these reports and stories coming out. First off, I must say that I am so incredibly proud of all of these women who are speaking out about their abusers. This conversation is extremely important, especially with today’s culture. These abusers deserve to be punished for their actions.

However I must make a point to say that while I am incredibly empowered by these women to keep taking action against sexual harassment and sexual assault, I am very much aware of the fact that there are so many other women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted by people who are as not as well-known like everyone in Hollywood or the media. These women who are suffering everyday with what they have had to go through, do not get automatic relieve when they speak up about their abusers, if they ever choose to do so. Their abusers don’t get shamed like these famous men are starting to. We have to remember that there is so much injustice that women are faced with everyday, in relation to their assailants. There are women who have never spoken up, and some never will. It is important to recognize that is okay, too. I have heard SO MANY people say to me in response to these allegations, that these women shouldn’t have waited this long. Here’s the thing though: It doesn’t matter. Unless you have been through it, you don’t, and you never will understand what it is like to go through such a traumatic event(s). Most times, these men tend to be in a position of power over the victim. So, therefore, it would make it that much harder for someone to come forward at the time of the event. It takes SO much courage to speak up about such a sensitive topic as this. Abusers can and often do, instill so much fear into the victim based on their position, in order to prevent them from coming forward. It happens all the time.

Speaking from a personal standpoint, I completely understand where these women are coming from. When I was sexually harassed as a freshman in high school, I didn’t report it at the time of the incident. The student that was sexually harassing me, was an integral part of the football team. He was also known by a lot of other students. Those were my reasons for keeping my mouth shut about it. He was a great football player, and a lot of people from what I knew, liked him both as an athlete and a friend. I learned it was best not to speak up about sexual harassment the year prior, in eighth grade where I encountered sexual harassment for the first time. I decided to report it, only to be ridiculed for it by my peers. After that, I thought that it wasn’t worth it to speak up.  However, I decided to bring the issue to light two years later, as a junior during a meeting with my vice principal. At the time of disclosing the incident, this student was no longer in the school district, I therefore felt safe bringing it to surface because I wouldn’t face any shame for it. This is exactly my point; I knew nothing would come out of it as far as disciplinary action. I knew I wasn’t going to gain anything at that point for reporting it. Shifting back to these women who are speaking out, I believe that very few, if ANY AT ALL are doing it for publicity. These women are powerfully using their voices to shed light on an issue that needs more attention than it has received in the past.

A movement has started, and it has to continue. We must continue to bring stories and experiences of sexual harassment and sexual assault to light. It does not end here. It is my hope that this movement will bring about some much needed change in our society. I  promise to do everything in my power as an advocate and an educator on sexual harassment to keep talking to students about these issues, and to try my very best to make sure that change happens.

#metoo

~McKenzie

 

Parents: How you can help your child if they are experiencing sexual harassment

      When a child  tells a parent that they have been sexually harassed, it can be a rather alarming feeling for the parent. As a parent, we always want to protect our children, every second. But, we come to realize that we can’t always be with them every second of the day; especially when they go to school. Although at school we expect our children to be protected by teachers, administrators, and other staff members, things can still happen. While 99% of these staff members try their best to keep our kids safe, it is impossible to watch every student at every moment. So, if in the case your child tells you that they have been sexually harassed, here are a few tips to help both you and your child:

  1. LISTEN first, without saying anything.

While it is your first parental instinct to ask a lot of questions when your child tells you something like this, give them some space. Let them tell you the entire story first, without interrupting them. If you try to interrupt them, they may feel like they don’t want to continue talking to you about it. Make sure to also listen carefully, and focus on the details; it will save you from asking your child multiple questions later.

  1. ATTEMPT to stay as CALM, as POSSIBLE.

As much as you would like to lose your mind and be angry with the individual that harassed your child, (it’s natural!!) you have to focus on being there for them. I completely understand that you want to be angry and upset. However, it will just further upset your child. It’s okay to be angry, but just make sure your child doesn’t see that side of you.

  1. SUPPORT and be there for your child as much as you can.

The most important part of this process, is to be there for your child. This can truly take quite a toll on them emotionally, so make sure you continuously check in on them. Sometimes, they will try to hide how they feel, so it’s important to keep tabs on that. Some signs that they may have been harassed, but haven’t told you, are: change in mood,  being more quiet than usual, sudden change in eating habits, and the one that’s more common is slipping grades, and loss of focus at school.

The Reporting Process of Sexual Harassment: What to Expect

Telling a parent/teacher/(assistant) principal that you have been sexually harassed may be difficult, but, it can be done. Lots of times, some people are not sure how to approach the subject of sexual harassment and talking about. So, if you decide to report it, here are a few things to remember:

1. Try to remember that it’s not your fault.

Sometimes victims will try and blame themselves for the harassment. It is never your fault. What happened is on the harasser. It doesn’t matter what you said, what you were wearing, if you were flirting with the person, or even if you liked them. When someone does something that makes you feel uncomfortable, and they keep doing it, it is on THEM, not you.

2. Reporting the harassment could help other students, too.

I understand firsthand how hard it can be to report an incident of sexual harassment. However, if you report the harassment, you can help other students, too. How? Say you go report it to your assistant principal. So, then they investigate it, and find out that the person is in fact harassing you. They will then face disciplinary action. However, other people could of been harassed by the same person that you were. Therefore, not only do you help yourself, you help others too because they longer have to put up with the harassment either.

3. Being uncomfortable, scared, or nervous about reporting it, doesn’t last long.

One of the main reasons why some students don’t tend to report sexual harassment, is because it may seem like it would be uncomfortable to talk about it. However, I want to assure you that feeling uncomfortable or nervous or scared will not last long, at all. I promise you that. I will give you an example of how the reporting process itself would go:

You decided to go tell your assistant principal ( It can be anyone, I’m just using this as an example) that you were/are being sexually harassed. They will then typically asked you what happened. This is good time to take out any notes or anything similar describing what happened. On those notes, you’ll want to include the dates and times, (if possible) what was said between you and the harasser,(if anything) and include anything else they may have done, such as touching, etc. where it happened, how it made you feel, and if there were any witnesses. It is important to note that if any touching occurred, you will most likely be asked to describe where upon yourself the touching took place. This can be uncomfortable. However, I want to assure you that anyone who is conducting the investigation, will be very professional. They will let you take as much time as you need, to gather your thoughts, process any new information that you may remember, and take a break if necessary. They are there to support you and help you through it. After that is done, they will (should) speak with the harasser. They will then look to see if your stories match up. Once that is complete, they will (most likely) inform you if the harasser/offender will face disciplinary action. Although, they will not be able to give specifics. Lastly, they should follow up with you to see how you are doing. If you need counseling support, or anything like that, they should provide that to you.

FAQ’s by Students about Sexual Harassment

 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

Teen Dating Violence

Any and all abusive or controlling behaviors by a significant other constitute teen dating/ domestic violence. A survey by the CDC in 2011, showed that 23% of females and 14% of males that experienced stalking, rape or physical violence, by their partner experienced some type of partner violence between the ages of 11 and 17 first. Teen dating violence has increased a lot over the past few years. It can have a serious impact on its victims. Victims can experience anxiety, depression, engage in alcohol and drug use, or even have suicidal thoughts. Teen dating violence is a serious issue and action needs to be taken. Unhealthy relationships go hand and hand with dating violence. Unhealthy relationships can take a major toll on the victims it affects. A majority of the time, victims are afraid of getting out of unhealthy relationships because they are afraid that the violence will still continue. It is very important that friends or family members of victims are willing to support them. With help and support from friends and loved ones, victims are able to heal. Also, with help, victims have higher chances of getting out of unhealthy relationships safely.

If you have experienced teen dating violence, please remember the following:

  1. It is NEVER your fault.
  2. You are NOT alone!
  3. You have the right to be in a healthy relationship.
  4. Your partner NEVER has the right to be abusive to you in any way, shape or form.
  5. You should never have to put up with your partner’s disrespectful behavior.
  6. It’s okay to get out of a relationship that you don’t feel safe in.
  7. It’s also okay to seek help

Here are some resources you might find helpful:

  1. loveisrespect.org
  2. Dating Abuse hotline: 1-866-331-9474
  3. breakthecycle.org
  4. victimsofcrime.org

Sources:

CDC.gov

Importance of Teaching Respect Early On:

I’ve come to the conclusion that the earlier you educate students about respect, the better. If you are able to teach children at an early age, that respect towards others is extremely important, the better off they will be. Most schools really focus on teaching respect in kindergarten, but the key is to continue through elementary school and beyond. That way, when students get to middle school and high school, they have a very clear picture of how to treat one another. The reason why this ties into informing students about sexual harassment, is that if you are able to instill in students that respecting one another is of absolute importance, you are creating a positive environment about respect. If we can teach students that they should always respect each other’s boundaries, they will carry that with them through the rest of their education. By the time they get to middle school and high school, they will understand that they should ALWAYS respect each other’s boundaries. Once students are aware of that, they are less likely to harass one another because they are knowledgeable of the fact that harassing someone would be disrespecting someone’s boundaries. It is crucial that we educate our students on respect to create awareness about sexual harassment. Also for elementary students, teaching them to make personal boundaries for themselves  and to enforce those boundaries is essential.  We should also encourage students to report any incidents of such inappropriate behavior, to a trusted adult. Making students aware  of inappropriate behavior and what effects that can have on other classmates if they engage in that behavior is also important. For students in higher grades such as middle school, it is important to focus on what sexual harassment is, and what constitutes it. By doing this, they will be more knowledgeable about it and have a clear idea of what behaviors would create a hostile environment for harassment.