According to the registrar, the university will bid farewell to approximately one 1,450 undergraduates. When students think of their future, chances are that hardly anyone considers themselves falling victim to sexual harassment.
It doesn’t matter if you’re white, black, or Hispanic, rich or poor, male or female. Sexual harassment crosses all racial, economic and social boundaries, and it can become a potential reality for some graduating seniors entering the workforce.
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 11,717 sexual harassment charges were filed in 2010. Almost 10,000 of the victims were women and 2,000 were men. Women of W.A.R.S. held a forum Tuesday at Regents to discuss this issue.
With notebooks and pens at hand, dozens of students came to talk about the everyday struggles women endure and how to prevent rape and sexual harassment, while enjoying fun activities such as decorating posters with pictures of abused victims.
Amidst all the fun, the spirit of unity was felt whenever students spoke of the darker sides victims endure.
“We just need to be aware of what goes on in the world because there are victims out there and there are victims who will be telling their stories,” said W.A.R.S. board committee member Adelaja. “And, from learning from their stories and what they did and what they wished they would’ve done would help us in the long run because, I mean, sexual harassment is always there.”
The offense can occur anywhere as long as it involves unwelcome advances or requests that are verbally or physically expressed regarding a person’s gender. When sexual harassment escalates, it can create a hostile work environment and the victim can be fired or demoted. But there are ways to fight back. Victims can also file a lawsuit on www.eeoc.gov.
“It’s up to us to speak up and not let them feel empowered by tearin’ us down. It’s up to us to speak up and not let them do whatever they wanna do,” said Adelaja with fierce determination in her voice as it grew louder.
Speaking up and keeping matters professional is a tip for future employees. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission strongly advises victims not to invite the alleged harasser(s) to lunch or dinner after the supposedly offensive conduct occurred, flirt with the alleged harasser, wear sexually provocative clothing, and use sexual mannerisms around the alleged harasser. They also refrain from vulgar language and sexual horseplay.
Such situations can create disturbing memories, leaving some uncomfortable to talk about their experiences. One student identified herself as a victim but declined to be interviewed.