Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Thwarted Rape Highlights That Sexual Harassment Not Always As Innocent As Defenders Claim

I've lost track of the number of times people have dismissed the seriousness of sexual harassment while claiming that women who have reported sexual harassment to the police or other authorities or who even make any claim of fear over sexual harassment are overreacting.

The most recent example of widespread dismissal came from the reaction to a Ball State University public safety notice after 3 female students reported being slapped by a man on a bicycle. A Facebook fan page was created to mock this safety notice, but this mocking indicates deeper dismissive attitudes.

This dismissal is based on the premise that those who sexually harass women, including unwanted physical contact, are not a danger to women and are merely committing harmless affronts. People who claim to support individual rights will declare that harassment or even groping are actions which shouldn't be banned by colleges sexual misconduct guidelines.

This premise, often marketed as fact, is undermined by a story about a recent stranger rape case case:
STROUDSBURG, Pa. -- Police say two East Stroudsburg University students helped stop a rape. It happened early Tuesday morning in Stroudsburg, Monroe County.
Police say early Tuesday morning, a 22-year-old woman was walking to her friend's apartment when a man grabbed her and dragged her behind a dumpster. Luckily two other women heard her cries for help.
This description of an attack matches what is often used to prove the contrast between the alleged non-dangerous sexual harassers and real rapists. There's just one problem.
The two friends then rushed outside... to stop it. "I remember pulling him and then pushing him on the ground... like throwing him on the ground." The woman says he got up and started to run away... she went after him... while the other woman called 911.

"I had no idea if he was armed or not. I had no idea if he had a knife or anything." The man got away... but the women were able to give police a description. They say it was the same man who was making unwanted advances towards them earlier in the night.

"Just by judging the back of the man I knew it was the guy that was following us at the bar."

"He made me feel really uncomfortable. He made me feel really scared."
This college student's fear over being sexually harassed doesn't seem so irrational when the same man is caught during an attempted stranger rape. Yet again and again people who claim to be against all real sexual violence will dismiss reactions like hers as irrational unless this type of immediate connection can be made between those who are dismissed as harmless and those who are scorned as monsters.

The dismissal of sexual harassment most likely meant that these 2 women who intervened didn't feel they had a right to report this man when his actions and his manner caused the initial fear.

We as a society have no problem when people report a prowler who seems likely to be planning a property crime, but we do have a problem as a society when people report troubling or even illegal sexual behavior that could be described as sexual harassment.

If we are serious about preventing the sex crimes that nobody mocks then we all need to be serious about opposing the unwanted sexual behaviors which are now too often mocked.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:59 AM   1 comments links to this post

1 Comments:

At April 22, 2010 12:47 AM, Anonymous Nance Parry said...

The more people who understand sexual harassment, the more will be empowered to stop it, or not do it, themselves. I have an ebook - How To Avoid/Handle/Litigate Over Sexual Harassment. It's on http://www.booklocker.com/books/4397.html. Not only informative but entertaining. No one should spend another day at work without it.

 

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