Sexual Harassment Needs to be Reported

Side comments.

Inappropriate jokes.

A text sent with suggestive language.

Students engage in conversations day in, and day out, but how much of that conversation could verge on sexual harassment? 

There are three types of sexual harassment, according to Family and Consumer Science teacher, Dr. Cassie Mueller: Hostile Environment, Quid-Pro-Quo and Third Party,

“Hostile Environment is when you are doing something that is making a person very uncomfortable. This could be making jokes, something that is written, an inappropriate email, it could be staring at a person and being very inappropriate with their body language towards a person,” Mueller said.

An example of this would be in the classroom where another student may make an inappropriate comment that makes you uncomfortable and makes you feel unsafe. This may take things too far in the environment that is supposed to be safe, causing further problems for the victim when dealing with being comfortable once more within that space. 

Hostile environment and these inappropriate comments are a form of sexual harassment.

“Quid-Pro-Quo is something for something. If your boss [or superior] says to you ‘Okay if you sleep with me you will get that promotion’. Or if they insinuated they could give a sexual favor of some sort to get a promotion or more pay,” Mueller said.

While this instance is less likely to happen within high school it is something important to look out for in the working world. Quid-Pro-Quo is another form of harassment.

“Third Party is if you are an employee and you witness either Hostile Environment or Quid-Pro-Quo and you don’t do anything about it, you could also be held legally liable because you should be educated to know what sexual harassment is and it needs to be reported. If you witness it, that person being victimized might not be strong enough to say it and as a witness you are responsible to say something,”Mueller said. 

Third Party holds the bystander responsible; it makes you liable if you fail to report something inappropriate that you witness.

So what can one do to avoid these situations?

“Interrupt, question, educate, and support,” Assistant Principal Cassie Ridenour states.

Sexual Harassment within Puyallup High School is a severely undereported, yet prevalent issue, as stated by Assistant Principal Cassie Ridenour. 

“We always want to encourage and empower victims of sexual harassment to report. We know that any kind of discrimination, harassment or bullying is undereported. Especially sexual harassment,” Ridenour said. 

Principal Dave Sunich agrees.

 “Rarely ever is it [sexual harassment] reported,” Sunich said.

Ridenour expanded on the possibilities of why these cases may go unreported. 

“There is a lack of willingness to report due to the stigma attached to it and the fear that nothing will happen,” Ridenour said. 

However, Ridenour dismissed this fear, citing the no contact order often used in cases of sexual harassment, a tactic used to help prevent victims from facing retaliation of any sort from their abuser. This practice includes restricting contact between the two as well as restricting contact of friends. The administrators may change schedules to prevent any altercations or paths colliding. 

This still is not enough though, as students face the issue of sexual harassment within school continuously. Ridenour says she herself has been witness to cases such as these. 

“Low-level harassment I hear frequently in the halls,” Ridenour said. “Using offensive terms and derogatory and sexist remarks that are part of sexual harassment.”

Oftentimes though a higher level of harassment teachers or administrators will fail to notice as the students will never act in such a way when near an authority figure or it is difficult to differentiate between the joking nature of modern day high school students or if it is truly an act of harassment. 

“High levels of harassment such as inappropriate touching, stalking, or unwanted sexual advances, we don’t hear about that frequently which is why I say we need it reported,”Ridenour said.

Reporting is one of the top things necessary in order to take an accusation to the level of investigation. 

“I can tell you without a doubt that there has never been anything reported where someone has said we aren’t gonna do something about it,”Sunich said.

But what happens when you potentially become a victim and you are afraid to speak out? 

While you hear that you are not alone, or there is nothing to fear, some may not be so willing to listen.

“There is something to be said about when you discover you are not alone. For victims that is really important, to have a network of support,” Ridenour said.

There are also numerous resources available to those in these cases. 

“We can connect with mental health care networks. We work with Good Sam Behavioral, Catholic Family Services, and Hazel Health,” Ridenour said.

Oftentimes, perpetrators of these acts will often target those who are least likely to report, who seem like easy prey.

 “Victimizers are really good at spotting victims. They have a tendency to find those already disconnected from a network and who are less likely to report. They are also less likely to report the harassment,” Ridenour said.

For those who become trusted confidantes, it is key to know the right steps to be taken.

“Be an ally to those victimized,” Ridenour said.

Gabe Mason, a sophomore at Puyallup offers another, and important perspective to this issue. Mason states, “Guys need to know that it’s not respectful and it can affect a girl for a long time… they need to think before they act,”.

“Empowering our students to have a voice is key,” Sunich states. 

It is absolutely imperative to use your voice and tell your story. Do not let the abusers win, and utilize your voice to make a change.