I witnessed a situation on a bus that caused me to think about what is sexual harassment. I will tell you about the incident in a bit. When we think of sexual harassment, most times we think of the work environment or school. We think of someone we know using sex to either try to promote someone, control someone, or make someone uncomfortable. However, sexual harassment can be imposed on us from a total stranger. This is what I mean.
The incident I just spoke of happened a couple of weeks ago on a bus I ride to work in the morning. There was a young college age woman that got on the bus and sat down across from me at the window seat. Two stops later, a man that was already on the bus came and sat next to her. He proceeded to take out his watch put it on his lap and click it in intervals. Also, he never spoke to her or even looked her way. Just straight ahead. The young woman feeling I guess defeated, instead of getting up and going to another seat, there were pleanty open, decided it was a good idea to simply nod off to sleep.
I later spoke to the woman about the man. He got off a couple of stops before her and the woman said didn't know this man . She said he has done tries to sit next to her many times. He never speaks to her but leans in on her side touching her. She has tried to disuade him by putting her backpack on the seat next to her, but some days she forgets as she did today, and he slides in. In my opinion this is an obvious case of sexual harassment. Can she report it to anyone as such? No, not really. The man hasn't harmed her. But she can discourage further creepy behavior from him that may happen. She may not know him, he hasn't even spoken to her but this does it mean she is not in danger of harm. Personally I would either move each time he slides in or force him into conversation learning his name and where he works or goes to school. But I digress.
Here are some statistics from CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY - Flora Stone Mather Center for Women:
20%-25% of women in college reported having experienced an attempted or completed rape while in college. Fisher BS, Cullen FT, Turner, MG. 2000. The Sexual Victimization of College Women. U.S. Department of Justice National Institute of Justice, Publication No. NCJ182369
On Average 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in the U.S. In a year, that's more than 12 million women and men. National Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey 2010 Summary Report
90% of college women who are victims of rape or attempted rape know their assailant. The perpetrator is usually a classmate, friend, boyfriend, or ex. partner. Acquaintance Rape of College Students Problem-Oriented Guides for Police Series No. 17 www.cops.usdoj.gov
So I ask, if 90% of these college rape victims know their assailants, then 10% don’t know them, how can these women protect themselves from becoming victimized? I can almost guarantee falling asleep while sitting next to a creep that is stalking you is not even on the list of wise steps to take.
Consider these practical suggestions I feel will be of great benefit to avoid unwanted attention:
- Be Pleasant but not friendly. Strangers are not friends, even if they are friendly. In cases where their behavior is off the scale of normal, then they should not only be treated like strangers, but as the enemy. Take notes of their behavior. If you can, take a picture of the person. If you need to; get up and remove yourself from near the person. When you are approaching your home don’t always take the same route. Keep them guessing about your next move. If you see them hanging around your home or following, contact the authorities. Tell your friends about this person. Let your parents know about your concerns or a teacher or the school administrator. If it is happening between travels to and from work, tell your supervisor or manager. Don’t be silent about overly odd behavior from a stranger. Especially, if this is a repeated occurrence.
- Dress for success. I honestly feel people have a right to their own individuality. Unicorn hair is now just as popular as being born with beautiful red hair. Tattoos mark just about every other body I see. Clothing styles ranges are off the charts and new categories are continually being developed.
Here is where many will fault me on, but it does make a difference. Modest dress and provocative dress. People will say they should be able to dress any way they want without having to worry about someone messing with them. In a non-sexually sedated world that would work. But people tend to dress to attract, or detract. People send a message with their clothing and styles. People’s codes of conduct are grouped based on dress.
Just as you can pretty much ascertain what type of music a person listens to based on their dress, you can tell if a person would make you a good friend based on their dress. Many times you can tell a person’s sexual orientation based on how they dress. It’s a fact of life, right or wrong.
Having stated this, if you dress provocatively, you leave yourself open to not only attract the attention of the person you want to see you as HOT, but also attention of those you don’t know or don’t want fantasizing about what they could do with your body. How people respond to the way you dress can be a desired reaction or an undesired one. I understand also that isn't always the case, but you best believe it is in more situations than not.
Therefore, I encourage, especially women, to be modest in your dressing. Be stylish but save the provocative dress for the right occasions. If you’re going to wear that mini bodycon dress that barely covers your butt to a party, cover up with a non-transparent sweater or coat that reaches to your knees and covers your plunging neckline. When you respect yourself and your body, others will too.
- The friends you choose will say a lot about the person you are. It’s so important to know who you are with. Most girls like to be the one that gets the friendly popular playboy. But the telling sign as to if he is someone to spend personal time with is checking out how the women who have dated him feel about him after the fact. Are they still friends with him? Check out his friends as to whether they are respectful toward women or if their conduct is offensive toward women. Do they speak with filthy language, tell sexually dirty jokes, and trying to feel up on every cute girl that pass them. This will tell you what kind of person this popular guy is. Nice men that respect women don’t hang with men that disrespect women.
- Know where you’re at and make sure others do too. One night stands are the craziest thing I've ever heard of. Meeting someone for the first time at a bar or function and going home with them is stupid. This stupidity is intensified if no one knows where you are going and whom you are with. If who you are with needs to be kept a secret then you’re either doing something wrong or you will soon regret what you are about to get into. We have these great camera phones and people need to use them. Text the full name of the person you are with as well as the address they are taking you to as soon as you find out. If he doesn't want to give up his name and phone number to you before you head out of the party and to his home, then don’t go with him.
Be firm and direct about your no but thanks for the invite. Do not compromise when it comes to your safety.
I wrote this article with love. I directed it to young women. I'm a young woman and I always want to know who is following me. Many may disagree with my “old fashion” style morality. But when you think about it, crime, rapes and so forth is on an increase as morals and values decline. There is a correlation. So be smart and live a life with low to no risk of tragedy.
For more information check out my series on Sexual Assault that I recorded for YouTube.