Don’t let harassers get away with it: Speak up

The teal ribbon represents sexual violence awareness. Most people do not report when they are sexually harassed.

Graphic courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The teal ribbon represents sexual violence awareness. Most people do not report when they are sexually harassed.

Editorial Board

Former AACC student Sarah Sutherland said she used to avoid groups of men as she walked into class so they wouldn’t yell unwanted comments to her.

The cat-calling was at its worst when she wore revealing clothes, which some men, Sutherland said, seemed to take as an invitation for sexual harassment.

It’s not.

“How hard is it to understand that sexual comments and actions are not wanted unless they’re asked for? It’s that simple,” Sutherland asked.

Still, she never reported the cat-calling to campus authorities, she said. In fact, most people who experience sexual harassment tend to keep it to themselves.

You’ll read elsewhere in this month’s Campus Current that—in a 338-person survey—only 32 of the 164 students who told us they have been sexually harassed spoke up to report it.

That sends the message that roughly 80 percent of students consider sexual harassment acceptable, are afraid to report it, or think the offense isn’t a big enough deal to report, perhaps.

We want to encourage you to report it anyway.

Of the 12 students in that big campus survey who said they were sexually harassed here on campus, only three reported it.

Sexual harassment can be difficult to define, and it may not feel as serious as physical assault, but that doesn’t make it acceptable for students to stay silent.

Problems cannot be solved through silence. And students shouldn’t excuse unsolicited, unwanted sexual comments and actions that jeopardize their personal sense of security.

If you feel uncomfortable, don’t shy away and brush it under the rug. That will only encourage future harassment and blind offenders to the necessary consequences.

If you see something, say something. And if you feel uneasy, return the favor to the harasser.

Victims are only victims if they accept defeat.

AACC should pride itself on creating a comfortable and inviting sense of campus life that doesn’t let sexual harassment hold students back from getting a good education or participating in campus events.

As the 2018 Riverhawk grads leave the nest and fly to their four-year universities next fall, they shouldn’t go in fear. They should not accept sexual harassment there as a routine part of campus life just because they’re going to a larger school.

Instead, they should be prepared to report offenses of sexual harassment and to demand nothing less than the comfort and safety that they found at AACC as they continue their education.

On Pages 9 through 12, you’ll read a series of articles about sexual harassment, inspired by the Campus Current survey and intended to raise awareness about the issue.