How We Handle Sexual Harassment

M. Herle '20

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Recently, in the wake of a wave of sexual assault and harassment claims, America has been forced to relive past moments, reevaluate moral boundaries, and reinstate society’s statutes. The issue of sexual assault and harassment is one that has spanned thousands of years, and after the onslaught of cases brought into the public eye recently, most believe it is not one that can be solved in a few months -or perhaps ever. Here, at Nardin, because we are an all girls school, we can only discuss this issue to certain extents. However, the opinions on this issue at an all girls school, at this time, may be worth even more to society than those made at a co-ed school; for, if these issues are an uncomfortable topic to talk about at an all girls school, examingining them at a co-ed school can only be more difficult.

Around Nardin, and high schools in general, we are careful not to discuss the topic of sexual harassment and assault too much. Whether this is just because it’s an uncomfortable topic in general, teachers are reluctant to discuss it, or because we have varying political views from one another, it’s an issue that everyone walks on eggshells around. Nicknamed “open secrets”, these accusations had always existed, but were never viewed under a microscope as they have been recently.

Now, at the unveiling of many sexual assault claims involving household names, the issue has been tagged with a new level of severity. The entertainment industry led the way, immediately taking a stance against producer and executive Harvey Weinstein, to be joined on the outside later by men like Kevin Spacey, Brett Ratner, Louis C.K., Matt Lauer, Ed Westwick, Dustin Hoffman, Charlie Rose, Jeffrey Tambor, and so many more.

However, the even more serious issue may lie in the “open secrets” on Capitol Hill and within the ranks of our government. This scandal, beginning in local elections with candidates like former Alabama judge Roy Moore and extending to the senate with men like Al Franken (R-MN) and Blake Farenthold (R-TX), reaches as far as our own White House, where President Donald Trump resides amidst numerous sexual misconduct accusations. While rumors continue to be spread about sexual misconduct within our government, voters are forced to reconsider their choices and take into consideration moral laws that should not allow any perpetrator of sexual misconduct to gain power in our country. A hopeful example of a situation like this is the recent senate race in Alabama, where democrat Doug Jones was victorious over republican and accused child molester Roy Moore, but, more importantly, justice and compassion won over fear and violence.

In a school survey sent out recently, students were asked, if they became a victim of sexual assault or harassment, would they speak out? An overwhelming 53.2% of the 62 students surveyed answered yes to this question. But then there’s another question that cannot be asked casually in a survey that may have affected the credibility of the answers to the previously stated question. That question: Have you ever been the victim of sexual misconduct? I do not doubt that many would have answered yes; however, those victims may have made up the also impressive 38.7% of students who answered maybe when asked if they would speak out if becoming the victim of sexual misconduct. Even without taking this unasked, unanswered question into consideration, I do believe that the total 91.9% of students who answered yes or maybe they would speak out is a statistic Nardin can be proud of. And for that 8.1% of students who said they wouldn’t be able to speak out, that’s a separate issue that needs to be tackled along with prevention of sexual misconduct in the first place.

Here, at Nardin, although at times we may seem like a small, sheltered community, it is important now, more than ever that, as an all girls school, we take a stance on the right side of this issue. While this is a topic that may have seemed inappropriate to talk about before, it is pertinent that we continue to define moral issues like this, and search for solutions through continued education and discussion. Now, as the rise of the #Metoo movement brings about a new era of communication, at Nardin we need to be able to accept that, for now, communication is the best solution to the issue of sexual misconduct. In the words of Anita Hill, a forerunner to the #Metoo movement, who spoke out, over twenty-five years ago, as a sexual harassment victim of current Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas  “I did what my conscience told me to do, and you can’t fail if you do that.” It is only through discussion, that victims can feel comfortable to speak out, justice can be brought to perpetrators, and eventually some peace of mind for victims can be achieved.

 

Works Cited

Alcindor, Yamiche, and Nicholas Fandos. “Senator Al Franken Resigning Amid Sexual Harassment Allegations.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 7 Dec. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/12/07/us/politics/al-franken-senate-sexual-harassment.html.

“Harvey Weinstein Timeline: How the Scandal Unfolded.” BBC News, BBC, 28 Nov. 2017, www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-41594672.

[email protected], Geoff Herbert |. “Hollywood Sex Scandal: Huge Updated List of Who’s Accused of Harassment, Assault.” Syracuse.com, Syracuse.com, 15 Dec. 2017, www.syracuse.com/celebrity-news/index.ssf/2017/12/hollywood_sexual_harassment_assault_list.html.

Survey:<https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1vuQZN0FZR4hZnvGW6vH94UqNEuteUKhK4h_fKUJnvxI/edit#responses>

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