Sexual Harrassment is Rampant, And It Needs to End
by Eliza Edelstein
Why after all these years are we still taught to remain silent in the aftermath of sexual harassment? Why do we still turn a blind eye to victims of this tragedy, letting them be judged by antiquated laws that are futile in helping them? Let’s admit it, this is an embarrassing topic, right? It’s something that we feel awkward to talk about and even more uncomfortable to share our own experiences with it. This is the root of the entire problem, that people are shamed into thinking that because this has happened to them something must be wrong with them. Just think about it, the person sitting next to you could have been sexually harassed and you probably would never have realized it. We need to realize that this could happen to any of you at any time, to your family, and your friends. Sexual harassment is still a major issue among women and even men, and it desperately needs to be dealt with, in order for all people to feel safe and taken more seriously by the places that we spend our time in and the people that we spend our time with.
The sad truth of sexual harassment, however, is that victims who come forward about what happened to them, get taunted and shown that the world would rather shove this issue under the rug, than face the uncomfortable process of solving it. An example of this is Anita Hill, who in 1991 came forward with a story about Clarence Thomas, the supreme court judge, and how he had made unwanted sexual jokes and gestures towards her. She wanted to show the world that this was the kind of man who was going to be ruling in the highest court of the land. When the trial began, she was laughed at by the people who witnessed the case, and had the senators ask her inappropriate sexist questions about whether she had purposely solicited those sexual acts from him or appreciated the attention (The answer was obviously no). And for those of you who think male sexual harassment is any less common, think again.
The first ever court case involving the sexual harassment of a man in the workforce occurred in 1995, when a male manager at Domino’s Pizza was sexually harassed, including inappropriate touching, by his female supervisor. Yet, still over twenty years after Anita Hill and that infamous first job harassment case, women and men are still taught that they are objects of other people’s lust and they shouldn’t speak up because they will be shamed for it. By telling them this, we are showing them that their body is not under their control.
Can you imagine how scary that must feel? To think that you can’t control the very thing you use every single day? And don’t even get me started on the kinds of unfair questions victims are asked, such as “What clothes were you wearing that day?” Or “Why were you still so nice to the boss who harassed you?” It’s the whole “you-asked-for-it” tactic, that is used to show that the conduct was not “unwelcome” therefore it was not sexual harassment. We need to blame their aggressors for having a lack of self-control, instead of blaming the victims for this issue.
One of the worst aspects of sexual harassment is how young it begins. Children younger than 11 are starting to first experience the effects of this horrible act and it needs to stop. 34% of girls and 32% of boys were first harassed before 7th grade. But parents, teachers, and society overall tells us to grin and bear it, to not pay it any attention, because it’s bound to happen to everyone. We should not simply tolerate it and accept it in our everyday lives especially when it’s happening to children. When we teach children that this is acceptable, we teach them that these acts are normal and their bodies are not valued. This contributes to a hostile environment in many schools, and occurs when an employee, student, or someone else asks for sexual favors and commits unwanted sexual advances that limit the victim’s ability to participate in this environment. Their environment becomes potentially dangerous for them.
People need to be educated about this issue, whether by their teachers, administrators, family, friends, or others. Whether it be a school-wide assembly or part of the curriculum, a packet, or an article stating the facts, this education should start at a young age and commence throughout college.
The last, but arguably the most important, part about this issue is getting proper ways to deal with it and prevent it from happening in public places around the world. For years, schools, especially universities/colleges, would ignore this issue, and the government followed suit by leaving them be. But now up to 200 colleges are being inspected for complaints about the way they have handled sexual harassment, up from only 55 colleges two years ago. Now, finally, schools are hiring specific people whose jobs are to educate people about Title IX, a law that deals with sexual harassment but is about equal opportunities for all genders. Though this is helpful, what really needs to be changed is the vague law itself, which doesn’t really focus on what should happen to those who have committed these types of sexual transgressions and doesn’t help the EEOC determine whether a crime is serious or “light.” The government needs to realize this is a major issue across the country and put some of its efforts into making this law into one that covers, in detail, as to exactly what sexual harassment is and how to deal with it school-wide, job wide, and nation wide.
Ultimately, sexual harassment is a raging problem that needs to be stopped immediately in order to make sure that it doesn’t continue to happen and is stopped by laws that fit the punishment to the crime. Men and women everywhere are left struggling in the aftermath of this issue, worried that the world and even those closest to them will view them differently. The benefits of knowing about this issue is that we can finally start to protect people from going through this horror and make the world that much of a safer place. We deserve to have control over our bodies, we deserve to feel secure in our schools and jobs, and most importantly we deserve to walk through life knowing we are protected and not in fear of the unknown.