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There’s a reason you usually only see girls with pepper spray on their keychains or why girls are scared to walk alone anywhere. There's a reason we’re constantly looking over our shoulder and fearing our shadows. The reason is simply: men who have no respect for women. 

In my 21 years, I’ve personally experienced sexual harassment more times than I can count on one hand, and that’s one too many. It has reached a point in which we’ve become so accustomed to it. It's been molded into a society that sometimes we don't even realize it's happening when it's happening. Sexual harassment is defined as “behavior characterized by the making of unwelcome and inappropriate sexual remarks or physical advances in a workplace or other professional or social situation.”

One issue is that some people think sexual harassment is only present in very specific situations such as rape or sexual assault. However, sexual harassment can be a plenitude of actions, verbal or physical. Sexual harassment can take place in subtle mannerisms that develop or worsen over time. 

Here are some examples of ways sexual harassment can take place:

  • unwanted kissing

  •  touching of breasts or genitals

  •  butt slapping

  •  rape

  • other forms of sexual assault

  • requests for sexual favors

  • making sexually explicit comments

  •  uninvited massages

  • sexually suggestive gestures

  • catcalls

  • ogling, or cornering someone in a tight space

  • Unwanted sexual looks or gestures

  • Unwanted pressure for dates 

  • Touching of clothing, hair, or body 

A big problem is guys think these actions are okay. Their mentality is that these actions are wanted because in their minds they have convinced themselves that we want this. In their world, we are their marionettes and they think they know what we want for their pleasure and benefit.

Now, here’s the truth. Women are living in fear of men because to men there are no boundaries. It should be written in stone and embedded into the brains of every man: You do not touch or make any moves on a girl without her full and coherent consent. Take social settings, for example, parties and events are used as excuses and gateways for predatory men to prey on vulnerable girls. We’re taught from an early age to never leave our drinks unattended. Belligerent moments are opportunities these men take to take advantage of girls. It’s a rule that unfortunately we still have to keep reiterating: don’t take advantage of someone under the influence. The worst part is the aftermath of these situations, most victims are told they lose credibility because of their state at the moment of the incident, and this is why they keep getting away with it. 

The discussion after the fact always seems to be, “oh, well she shouldn't have been drinking too much” or “don't drink if you don't know your limit." Limit or not, there is no excuse for someone taking advantage of another person in that state or any state. It says a lot about the predator and not the victim that the predator chose to take advantage of someone in a belligerent state. It shows that they’re aware of how bad of a person they are, that they can’t be with someone who consents to be with them. 

Another issue I see arising is the gaslighting that happens afterward. When victims do come forward about unfortunate experiences they’ve had, a big response to these accusations is to blame the victim and defend the character of the predator. A common excuse is, “I can get with anyone I want, so you’re lying because I don't need to take advantage of you." Let’s break that down 1. No, they can’t get with anyone they want because they're still making these moves on victims in vulnerable situations. 2. Telling someone they’re lying for explaining their perception of the events is gaslighting. 

I conducted a survey to analyze how prevalent this issue really is. I surveyed 110 women from ages 16-32. I asked them if anyone has ever made sexual advances towards them that made them uncomfortable, these were the results: 

Out of the 110 people surveyed, only 1 person claimed they’ve never experienced any of the above-mentioned advances.

I then asked in the survey if these victims had ever confronted their harassers. These were the results:

65.1% of the women in this survey did not confront their abuser. This could be for many reasons. 

For fear of retaliation, especially if this is someone you work with. It could also be due to the feeling of humiliation and shame that these actions bring, or even because this is someone we know or don't know. In this survey, only 6.3% of women reported these incidents to the police. 79% of women confided in a friend to share what has happened to them. 

Another point that needs to be addressed, and it was part of a lot of the responses from this survey, is that begging relentlessly for unwanted reciprocation, until the victim finally gives in, is sexual harassment. You should not be begging anyone to perform or be a part of anything they don't want to, that is coercion. Constantly messaging someone inappropriately and sending inappropriate images when it was never asked for, is sexual harassment. 

A lot of the comments I received with this survey was that in some cases victims did speak out about these incidents, and they were shut down. One person wrote that they worked at a restaurant while in high school and was continuously sexually harassed and stalked by one of her co-workers. She presented evidence to HR of the harassment and stalking, even had witnesses that could attest to this crude behavior. However, HR’s response to her report was that they couldn’t do anything about it. According to the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the following scenarios constitute as sexual harassment in the workplace: 


  • The harasser may be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee, such as a vendor or a customer.

  • The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.

  • Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.

  • The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome

There are two types of legally defined sexual harassment in the workplace. The first is a “hostile work environment” sexual harassment. This takes place when someone at a workplace becomes a target of inappropriate sexual innuendos, repeated and unwelcome requests for sexual favors or dates, offensive gestures or touching, and degrading or intimidating behavior. This type of behavior has to be pervasive/severe to claim a hostile work environment. They must affect your ability to do your job and show that the employer is responsible for this hostile work environment. In the case of the anonymous answer in my survey, she claimed she had evidence of stalking and very inappropriate comments as bad as the harasser, even stating he “wants to rape her." The restaurant here is at fault for 1. Being responsible for a hostile work environment and 2. Failing to hold this employee accountable to the point where the victim had to quit her job. 

The second type of sexual harassment in the workplace is Quid pro quo sexual harassment. This happens when a supervisor, manager, or someone above you in a work environment requests sexual favors and demands in return for your employee benefit. 

Sexual harassment can take form in subtle and ephemeral manners, but it still does not make it okay. Sexual harassment is not something anyone should be turning a blind eye to or making excuses for. You have the power to put a stop to this behavior. If you have a brother, friend, anyone you know that acts like this, do not make excuses for them because then you are also part of the problem. Listen to the victims. Hold these predators accountable and put them in their place.

To the girls who have unfortunately experienced any of these situations, my heart goes out to you. I know that if one woman is powerful, imagine how powerful we are in numbers. We can fight back and let them know what is wrong. I can’t promise it will be easy, but I can promise it will be worth it. Take care of your friends and family and hold each other accountable. This is the time to speak up for what is right and get rid of what is wrong. I wish it was as easy as just speaking up and telling them to stop for this problem to go away, but unfortunately, it won't go away until they finally learn to stop.

I'm a senior at FIU, majoring in Criminal Justice on the Pre-Law track. My goal is to one day go to law school and become a lawyer. I love to read mystery and thriller books that keep me guessing. I am an advocate for our generation being a catalyst to social justice. You could say Elle Woods is who I channel in life.
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