How to Prevent Sexual Harassment

When the head of the International Monetary Fund (a 187-country organization that oversees the global economy), Dominique Strauss-Kahn booked a swanky hotel suite in Manhattan, the housekeeper did what she always does: waited until the room was empty and then went inside to clean it. Little did she know, Strauss-Kahn was still in the room and had locked the door. The maid was then sexually assaulted and had no way of calling for help until the man left.

Sexual harassment is one of the oldest crimes in the book and it’s one that often seems to go unpunished. In today’s R-rated, “sex sells” culture, sexual harassment can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. And it does. All too often.

Fortunately, Strauss-Kahn was taken into police custody and will begin a long sequence of trials and lawsuits. But what about the rest of us? When a government elite is involved with a scandal, the whole world knows about it, but what about people no one knows about? Hopefully, you’ll never have to experience something as painful and scary as sexual harassment, but in order to protect yourself, you should know the facts.

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.” Yes, that’s right: sexual harassment DOES NOT have to include actual intercourse or even physical acts of any kind. When a creepy co-worker won’t stop hitting on you, the stranger on the train won’t stop pressing their leg against yours (even when you move away), that’s still sexual harassment and deserves to be punished.

In order to keep yourself safe from harassment of any type, take the following precautions.

1. Have MULTIPLE emergency contacts.
Going out on a blind date? Heading to an event with some people you don’t know that well yet? Always have two emergencies contacts. Yes, two. We’ve all had the experience of calling your friend for a ride home, but she doesn’t pick up. Have someone you can call just in case your first choice is busy.

2. “No” means NO.
The second you tell somewhat that what they’re doing is bothering you, that action becomes harassment. So, if you feel uncomfortable and uneasy, let the creep know that you don’t want their attention. If they know you’re uncomfortable and continue to annoy you, you have yourself a sexual harassment case.

3. Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed.
Us college students and young professionals are constantly trying to make a good impression on the people around us in order to work our way up the academic or professional ladder. That being said, it’s usually the reason why so many sexual harassment cases go unnoticed and unreported in the professional world. Victims don’t want to lose their job or make a bad impression, so they try to ignore unwanted advances. When it comes to you, your safety comes first. Don’t let a potential job opportunity stop you from telling off your creepy boss.

4. Doubt equals don’t.
Yeah, that’s a quote from Oprah, but the woman’s got a point. If you’re ever in a situation where you’re feeling some doubt, it’s your gut’s way of telling you that you something is wrong. That guy seem to be comin’ on a bit too strong? Get out of there. Not sure you want to give that stranger your number? Don’t. We all have instincts for a reason – to protect us – so listen to yours.

Sexual harassment CAN be prevented and punished, but only if victims and onlookers stay proactive. Put yourself first, keep your friends close, and stay on your toes. The world is only as dangerous as you let it be.

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  1. Sarah says:

    Overall, a fairly good article but your last three lines are extremely problematic. I understand the point you were trying to make (i.e. stay aware, be cautious) but saying that "the world is only as dangerous as you let it be" implies that someone who ends up the victim of sexual assault let their world be dangerous. It's all good and well to promote safety and self-agency but sometimes you don't have control over the world and how dangerous it can be in any given situation. Please remember that a pro-active "safety-first" mindset does not go hand in hand with a "blame the victim" mentality. Victims of sexual assault didn't "forget to stay on their toes" or decide to "let their world get dangerous" — they are victims.

  2. --- says:

    I had a problem, especially with the title of this article. By saying it is preventable on the victim's end puts blame on them instead of the attacker. It sounds like the whole if you were wearing scandalous clothing you wouldn't have been raped argument- which is wrong.

  3. Erin says:

    I appreciate what you're trying to do with this article, but I had some major problems with your implications at the end. The maid wasn't raped because she didn't say no, or because she didn't listen to her doubt – she was only doing her job and was attacked. Sometimes sexual assault CAN'T be prevented, and saying otherwise implies that victims did something wrong and are somehow to blame. Not only does this shift blame from the rapist to the victim, but it also creates a culture of shame and doubt that is the reason why so many rape victims fail to come forward.

  4. Natalie says:

    I agree with everyone's comment here. There are a lot of problems with the article's information. I also appreciate what the author is suggesting for reader's to do (and I agree). But even when people are doing what they are supposed to do, we have no control and bad things unfortunately happen. It is attitudes like these (even when they are well-intentioned) that keeps victims from become survivors. There should be an article about those who commit sexual harassment. Those who engage in these behaviors are not convinced they are doing anything wrong, so something needs to happen. There was a clever article on my college campus directed at those who sexually harass, assault, etc. It was refreshing because it gave advice that was directed towards these kinds of people and what they can do to change themselves.

  5. […] Apparently, sexual harassment is preventable if you take the right measures. (College Candy) […]

  6. Sarah says:

    Wow…I read college candy almost everyday and recommend it to all my friends and I'm so happy to see that my fellow readers agreed with me on this article! I was the original poster and I just checked back on this article to look for any following comments (kind of expecting to have been slammed) but instead I found a bunch of other readers who felt the same way as I did…. Yey! I'm so glad I'm not the only reader of CC (which is often awesomely feminist) who questioned this article.

    Go CC readers!!!!

  7. […] have in the past. Sexual harassment is illegal and now that companies are making more of effort to educate employees on the law and enforcing the no-tolerance company policy, when and if sexual harassment does occur […]

  8. […] How to Prevent Sexual Harassment ( […]

  9. Brittany says:

    i read the article on sexual harassment and it really touched me. I have been a victim of sexual harassment many time's, and every time i was always to scared to tell anyone i was being harassed and to scared to tell my harasser to stop. Now reading this article and going to counseling has made me realize that i shouldn't be scared to do any one of those things. Thank you college candy.

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