According to USA Today, every 21 hours a college female is raped. Fifteen percent of all college women are sexually victimized during their time at school (U.S. Department of Justice study). Seven out of every ten college women will experience some form of sexual harassment (Planned Parenthood study) before graduation, but relatively few will report the incident. Unfortunately, in today’s world, learning about how to stay safe is just as, if not more, important than learning about history and math. Here are some steps you can take to avoid becoming just another statistic.
Get the Facts
The U.S. government defines “sexual harassment” as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature." Deliberately loosely written, this definition includes anything from inappropriate comments to unwelcome touching to sexual assault. Sexual harassment can occur on any campus at any time and can happen to any person regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, or social/economic background. Harassment can take the form of verbal, nonverbal, or physical confrontation. The act is about power rather than sexual gratification, and those who allow sexual harassment to continue have their right to live in a positive, comfortable environment taken away.
Ignoring the situation only gives the harasser permission to continue. If you feel like someone is going beyond your comfort zone, tell him or her in a direct, assertive way. Specify exactly what makes you feel uncomfortable, and state that if the behavior continues, action will be sought. Documenting this statement in either letter or e-mail form (complete with dates and times) will provide proof that the conduct in question was recognized and that you asked for it to stop. Telling friends and colleagues will alert those around you, and telling professors and campus security will help prevent the action in the future. Should harassment become more severe, alert campus authorities, file an official complaint, and seek help through your school’s crisis prevention center.
Speaking up against sexual harassment is the only effective way to protect yourself and your community from potential danger.