Sometimes ignorance is hardly bliss at all. Ignoring a problem like sexual harassment seems to do two things to encourage those doing it to continue, and degrade the person who is victimized by it.
This was the topic of intense discussion at a recent meeting between 10 teenage girls from various high schools at the YWCA’s Girls’ Centre on Kingston Road. The girls shared experiences with sexual harassment that goes on every day in our city’s high schools and shed light on what is being done in response to it.
It’s upsetting to know that a majority of the girls that experienced any sort of sexual name-calling and physical invasion did absolutely nothing to protect themselves from it. A lot of the times, they said it was flattering and funny. Those affected by it are often too embarrassed to complain to authorities, like teachers or guidance councilors, about it.
According to the Oxford Dictionary of Current English, the definition of sexual harassment is “the making of unwanted sexual advances or remarks to a person, especially in a workplace.”
So does this mean that if the cat-calling and physical vulgarity is welcomed by another person, it’s not harassment after all?
Even though the definition of sexual harassment is based on the response of the recipient, ignoring the situation doesn’t make it better for others.
In the end, it’s still a form of disrespect and people’s reactions vary to it greatly. High school students need to collectively set an example for each other. What they don’t realize is that closing their eyes to it actually encourages people to continue doing it.
Sexual harassment transcends the boundaries of high school hallways and follows people into their professional lives as well. Educating people that this is an inappropriate way of communicating between the sexes is vital in school.
We have to remember that people have varying responses to different circumstances. For some, it’s not a big deal but for others it can be wounding. That’s why the same rules should apply to everyone.