A Pandora’s Box for Michaelene

Dealing with Sexual Harassment

Photo by Mihai Surdu on Unsplash

LEARNING FROM MY FIRST TEACHERS

My discipline to listen to my parents’ rules and warnings saved me from many dangers. The first time I heard about Sexual Harassment, Acts of Lasciviousness, Intriguing against honor, and Abuse didn’t happen anywhere else in this world. It was from one-on-one trainings I had from my parents at home back when I was in elementary to my teenage years of high school. Those were conversations happening before leaving the house to go on a beach outing, before going to bed hoping for a future sleepover, a night swimming, or wise advice to learn after hearing something on the news. Briefings which started when I was 6, and way too early as 5 and 4 to my younger sisters before stepping out the door: “Don’t talk to strangers”, “If ever you get lost, you know the drill”. The drill is to go back first to a spot where we agreed to meet before shopping or watching a movie in a cinema in case anyone gets lost. If we do not find each other, ask help (to the guard, cashier or so), tell them my parents' full name, and give them the piece of paper in my pocket with my parents’ name written on it, our address, and our telephone number. I never get lost for my awareness of just thinking of it made me appreciate that a simple “never let go of momma’s hand, and tatay’s hand” as they love to say always will go a long way and safely bring me home. It is not that my parents are careless, it is just that if you have 3 daughters almost at the same age, it is a struggle. Oh come on, I heard many parents tell me that one toddler is enough to cause a storm in their house. Imagine now my parents having a baby, a toddler, and a preschooler everywhere they go?
Yep, a beautiful disaster.

TAKING BABY STEPS

Sexual Harassment which is happening towards us gives us the same feeling as being scared and ashamed no matter how old we are, or how prepared we are before it happens to us. My advice is as long as you know what Sexual Harassment is and what is not, don’t be afraid. Take the baby steps. Speak up, talk to your harasser, report it to either a family member, a friend, a manager, a teacher, or our government services.

LIVING THE ADULT LIFE

When I celebrated my birthday this year, my phone rang many times than I expected, and for three days, I was answering phone calls and video calls from my friends and families from different sides of the world. It was unusual, I guessed the pandemic gave us more time to connect. A handful of birthday cards were received, read, and displayed on my bookshelves up until today, and many social media greetings received their respective thank yous — because I felt special that I am in their thoughts. The bottom line is my heart is happy because they all have good things to say and they remembered me. Each year, each birthday becomes the best birthday ever! What’s different this year from all the other birthday years I had is the reality that I cannot deny that I am, indeed, an adult now. So, conversations like I’ll be a godmother for another child who will see this world, a friend is getting married soon to what’s the best insurance, or brand of hazelnut drink will always be part of the catching up. One thing that struck me this year, however, are birthday greetings of people ending with a question:

Last month, I received a package from an anonymous sender. When I tracked the package from its bar code and investigate who was the sender, I found out that it was bought online, and shipped/ordered on February 10th, so I presume that this was a Valentine’s “gift” per se. It was not delivered to my mailing address, but shipped to a place where I am still able to receive mails. In addition, I know for a fact, the sender is hanging around on my social media accounts because the name on the package was one of my social media handles. To the one who sent this to me, please don’t do this again.
Not to me or anyone.

So what is Sexual Harassment? US EEOC defines it as an “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and any other verbal or physical conduct of sexual nature”.

Harassment can happen to anyone based on their:
Age, Sex, Race, Creed, Color, National Origin, Sexual Orientation, Military Status, Disability, Marital Status, Domestic Violence Victim Status, Gender Identity and/or, Criminal History

Sexual Harassment can happen to anyone — male and female — and it may happen anywhere.

If you’re a student, it can happen between your classmates and you, or between you and a person in a position in your school (e.g teachers, principals, CAT officers, organization leaders).

It can happen physically, verbally, virtually, and digitally.

Along with physical and verbal, with the increase of time, we spend virtually and digitally, more and more harassers may be reaching their victims through these ways because they can say and send to them what they want anonymously, which they cannot say and give to them in-person.

Here are some facts on which spells out the specific of harassment:

  • Gender is not an excuse: The victim, as well as the harasser, may be a woman or a man (babae o lalaki). The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex. (pwede din na babae sa babae at lalaki sa lalaki).
  • The harasser can be anyone who is in a position, or who is not in a position.
  • At work, the harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee such as customers and clients.
  • In a school setting, a harasser can be the victim’s teacher, or the victim’s student, a classmate, a parent of a classmate, a faculty member, a co-worker, and a non-employee in the school.
  • The victim is not always the person harassed but can be anyone affected by the offensive conduct. He/She does not have to be the person harassed.
  • Unlawful sexual harassment may occur w/o economic injury to or discharge of the victim.
  • The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome.
  • Harassment can happen if an employee or a student is harassed because she is a female and not a man, or she is a man and not a female.

The world we live in taught us that affirmative consent is “Yes means Yes”, but lightly highlights that “No means No”. Sexual harassment is happening almost every day that inappropriate behaviors are not clear on when it crosses the line of illegal harassment.

Remember that harassment happens not only to women. It can happen to anyone. It must be unwelcome.

“Sexually harassing behavior may include conduct of a sexual nature and conduct which is merely based on the sex of the victim” (The Advocates for Human Rights).

1.WHAT DOES “CONDUCT” MEAN?
Conduct is NOT sexual harassment if it is welcome. For this reason, it is important to communicate to a harasser either verbally or in writing in regards to the conduct which makes you uncomfortable which you wish to stop.

How many times did the incident occur?
How long has the harassment been going on?
How many others have been sexually harassed?
Who were witnesses to the harassment?

TYPES OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT:

  • Displaying sexually suggestive objects, pictures, or posters.
  • Touching and any other bodily contact such as scratching or patting a coworker’s back, grabbing an employee around the waist, or interfering with an employee’s ability to move
  • Unwanted jokes, gestures, offensive words on clothing, and unwelcome comments and witty responses.

Not everyone, especially the younger people is aware, or has been told what to do when things such this arise. So, as someone who learned from experiences knowing that I can make something good out of a bad experience, and make it a lesson for many. This is written for you! Please share it with others.

— To extend the conversation, I am volunteering for a Sexual Harassment training/conversation for free, especially for the people in The Philippines. Contact me and I’d love to give a 15–30 minutes SH training for students and anyone interested. Preferably in the summer as my schedule frees up. Save one another. Love one another.
To request this post in Tagalog, kindly let me know.

I was living in the darkness of the shadows of death when my Savior chose me and picked me up with His nail-pierced hands. I live to tell this story.