On campus here at San Francisco State University, sexual harassment happens every day, and it happens without consequence. This harassment almost always manifests itself in the form of unwanted sexually explicit comments. However, I’ve also witnessed a lot of uninvited touching and sexual advances, and I’ve seen people openly ignore others when they request a certain behavior to stop.
This was extremely troubling to witness, and I felt like I should do some research to learn if this behavior is a result of an ineffective education about sexual violence and harassment. To see if this rang true, I decided to interview five students about the issue of sexual harassment.
I began by asking them if they had any idea what sexual harassment actually was, and to my delight, all the students had similar answers to the definition: “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature in which submission to or rejection of such conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s work or school performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work or school environment”
I then asked if they considered sexual harassment to be a large issue in college, to which all of them replied yes. However, when I asked if SFSU had an issue with sexual harassment, two were quick to say no, while two others said they have never seen it during their time at the school, but still consider it an issue here. Only one student out of these five claimed to see repetitive acts of harassment on a day to day basis.
I asked this student where he saw these acts of harassment and why he thinks it is such a large issue at SFSU. He replied, “There is not enough education about sexual harassment. Instead, there is a lot of education about sexual assault.” This response was interesting because I think this student is exactly right. Campus Clarity, an online sexual violence prevention tool, focuses a lot more upon sexual assault than sexual harassment. While colleges are providing students with resources on sexual assault, there should be resources focused upon acts of harassment as well.
All of the students said that one way to prevent sexual harassment would be the use paper reminders such as posters and flyers. One student said, “Campus Clarity isn’t enough. It’s nice to have a reminder every now and then.” While many people ignore flyers, a passing glance at a poster that speaks against sexual harassment may be enough to change one person’s decisions about their sexual conduct because it acts as a reminder to keep oneself in check.
I think all colleges have something to think about when it comes to proper education about sexual harassment. Without one, sexual harassment will continue to fly under the radar, and the public will not know how to respond to harassment. A clearer definition should be provided, a better education should be provided, and resources about sexual harassment should be readily available to those who have questions or concerns as well as those who don’t because it’s important that everybody knows what sexual harassment looks like.