Sexual Harassment

It seems inevitable that during high school we will all, at some time or another, witness or experience sexual harassment. Whether it is a catcall, an obscene gesture, or a crude comment, they are all the same thing. Understanding why this happens is not easy, but knowing what to do when it happens to us or someone we know is important.

So, what is sexual harassment? How will we know when something is sexual harassment? Sexual harassment consists of any verbal or physical behavior that is sexual in nature. It can include gestures, comments, inappropriate touching, or brushing up against someone.

I will be the first to admit that sometimes it seems as though the claim of sexual harassment is used any time anyone gets offended. However, the problem is when the offense does not stop. Harassment comes when someone continually does something to make you uncomfortable. It is always important to remember that everyone interprets things differently. But, if it offends you, then it could be sexual harassment. If someone is doing something or saying something that offends you, tell them to stop. If you do not tell them, they may not be aware that what they are doing is offensive. However, if the person continues to offend you by acting this way, it becomes harassment.

As women, most of us have personally been harassed or have witnessed it. I personally have experienced it. After I graduated from high school, I worked at a local pizza place. One night while I was closing my station, the guy from the station next to me came over and brushed up against me. At first, it didn’t bother me. I thought it was an accident. But then he started laughing and came over and did it again. This time, I knew that it was on purpose. But, nothing had really happened. He was “just” brushing against my back.

The next day, I was at the salad bar cleaning up, and he brushed against me again. This time, though, it was not my back, and he stood there touching me a little longer. I stood up and told him to stop. He just laughed and said he didn’t know what I was talking about. I was not sure at all what to do. If I told, I knew he would just say it was an accident. I didn’t want to lose my job. I was also afraid if I told, it might actually get worse.

So, for a week or so, I just endured it. I mean, I didn’t know what to do, and I figured that if I just insisted enough, he would stop. Finally, one night, I could not take it anymore. I found the manager and explained the situation. He said to go about my work and he would watch carefully so that he could stop the guy if he started harassing me. Sure enough, when it came time for clean up, the guy came to my workspace and started saying things to me and brushing up against me. My manager popped out and asked why he was in my space rather than cleaning up his own. The guy had no answer. Then the manager told him that he had heard what was said to me. The manager moved the guy to a different part of the store and put him on probation. While I personally would have liked to have seen him fired, the fact that at least it had stopped was enough for me.

Remember that just because someone is sexually harassing you, it does not mean you have done anything to cause it. It could happen to anyone, at any time, in any place. Whoever is doing it is wrong. Not only in the eyes of the law, but also in the eyes of God. “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:16).

Being scared and angry is understandable in that kind of situation. But it does not mean that you should not alert someone to what is happening. By not telling, you are not only hurting yourself; that person could be doing the same thing, or worse, to others. Tell someone. You can tell a trusted teacher or a parent. You could find any mature adult with whom you feel comfortable. Tell a friend and have them go with you for support if that makes you feel better, but do not let it go. If the first person you talk to does not take you seriously, find someone else. It is not always easy, but it is important that you continue to search until you find someone who can stop this person from harassing you and/or others.

While I know that this is very difficult to do, especially in situations such as these, it is important that we forgive the person. Even if someone does not ask for forgiveness, it is important to forgive them anyway. Not for their peace, but for our own. We have to be able to stop the situation and then let it go and move forward. By harvesting that pain caused by this person’s actions, we only make life miserable for ourselves. I know you will never forget what has happened. I haven’t forgotten what happened to me, but I do forgive the person for acting the way he did. He obviously did not have God leading him.

I am not going to say that any of this will be easy. It will be hard to tell what happened to you, it will be hard to forgive, but by doing these things, it will show your strength and faith in God. Let Him lead you through difficult situations and others will see His light in you.

By Sarah J. Ancheta


  1. This is such a touchy subject, and one you covered well. Thank you for your thoroughness, your honesty, and your tact. You are an excellent writer!

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