Sexual Harassment in the US Comes into Focus

Have you been put into a situation that made you feel uncomfortable and even trapped? According to the National Sexual Resource Center, in 2016-2017, about 46 percent of lesbian women, 75 percent of bisexual women and 43 percent of heterosexual women reported sexual violence other than rape in their lifetime. At the same time, 40 percent of gay men, 47 percent of bisexual men, and 21 percent of heterosexual men reported sexual violence other than rape in their lifetime. Since then, the amount of sexual harassment cases has steadily started to rise.

Not only are cases of sexual harassment taking place around the world, it is also occurring in Rhode Island.

Every ninety-eight seconds, an American is sexually assaulted or harassed. That means that during the span of one LHS class period (62 minutes), 38 people somewhere in the United States have been sexually assaulted.

Since the reports of alleged sexual harassment by movie producer Harvey Weinstein back in October, many women have started to come forward with similar claims regarding incidents of sexual harassment or assault. Numerous news stories appearing since the Weinstein scandal, one of the most recent dealing with Today show host Matt Lauer and many others in entertainment as well as high powered political circles.

Some may think that sexual harassment victims are only females. That is categorically untrue. Both males and females are subject to situations in which they feel uncomfortable in a sexual way.

Sexual harassment is characterized as any unwanted and unapproved conduct of a sexual nature which has the purpose or effect on violating someone’s dignity, creating an intimidating, hostile, humiliating or offensive environment. It can include anything from sharing sexually inappropriate images or videos with another person, sending suggestive letters, notes, texts (sexts) or e-mails, displaying or illustrating inappropriate sexual images or posters in the workplace, or sharing sexual anecdotes, making inappropriate sexual gestures, staring in a sexually suggestive or offensive manner, whistling, making sexual comments about appearance, clothing, or body parts, inappropriate touching, including patting, rubbing, or purposefully brushing up against another person, asking sexual questions, such as questions about someone’s sexual history or their sexual orientation, making offensive comments about someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

If you have ever experienced any of these situations, you are a victim, and should report it. By reporting it, you could be saving another person from going through the same trauma that you did. Obviously, it is unlawful to torment another person in any shape or form, especially in a sexual way. In today’s society, sexual harassment is taking a toll on the ability for citizens to be worry-free while living their everyday life.

Over recent years, the amount that people text has increased drastically. In 2017, roughly 18.7 billion texts are sent worldwide every day. That is roughly 560 billion texts a month. A newer form of sexual harassment is “sexting” a side effect of the widespread increase in texting. “Sexting” is when someone sends or receives sexually explicit photographs or messages via text or media. According to Melissa R. Lorang, a psychiatrist of children and adolescents studies throughout the entire United States, she is concerned with the growth of sexting over recent years. She states, “Studies indicate that text messaging is the preferred means of communications, because transferring and viewing sexually explicit material of a minor subject is considered to be child pornography in many jurisdictions, there can be serious legal consequences.”

As of recent, sexting and, of course, sexual harassment is forbidden in Rhode Island. The distribution or possession of a minor’s sexually explicit images can be prosecuted under the state. Some consequences for the harasser of this act of injustice may include registering as a sex offender, referral for an education program, referral for counseling, written and/ or verbal reprimand, probation, suspension, or even expulsion. Not only does the harasser have to deal with consequences, the victim also has to deal with issues following sexual harassment. Suffering from psychological effects, anxiety, depression, headaches, flashbacks, sleeping issues, nausea, and lowered morale and self-esteem.

The problem? It is extremely hard to put a stop to a crime when very few people report it. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, roughly three out of four individuals that are sexually harassed do not report it. This allows many predators to get away with it and they may never stop.

Sexual harassment can really take a toll on a victim, and due to the secretive response to these matters, communities as a whole can only encourage reporting by taking steps to uncloak such activity as a means of prevention.