Sexual harassment sounds pretty serious, right?
I think so too, so when I learned what it was in high school, I was shocked and uncomfortable to realize that I had been experiencing sexual harassment since middle school. I never had a name for it, but I knew that it made me feel uncomfortable and ashamed of my body.
According to the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault, sexual harassment is "unwanted sexual behavior [that] may take different forms including:" unwanted physical contact, unwanted sexual comments, unwanted communication like phone calls, texts, letters, etc. S
Any contact from somebody that makes you uncomfortable, makes you feel ashamed or unsafe is sexual harassment. Flirting and sexual harassment are very different things. Flirting is welcome attention, it is mutual, and more important consensual. Consent is permission for something to happen, or an agreement for something to happen. Consent is an extremely important part of relationships. It is the difference between sexual harassment and flirting.
When I was in middle school, a group of boys treated me with disrespect. They would call out rude and sexual things to me in the hallway, slap my butt, and pinch or grab at my chest. It wouldn't happen every single day, but a few times every week. It made me feel embarrassed and ashamed of my body. I knew that what I was experiencing was wrong, but I was afraid to do anything about it. First, I wasn't sure why I felt what I felt; second, I was afraid that if I told anyone about it, I would be the one to face the consequence. I was afraid the blame would fall on me. I was also afraid that my mom would make sure to do something about it, which would make my bullies torture me even more.
Looking back, I realize that I should have spoken up, even if it meant becoming a bit unpopular. My safety and well-being was compromised every time a boy touched me or spoke to me inappropriately. I remember standing up for myself to one boy, and he never touched me again. Sometimes all it takes is for you to speak up and let the harasser know that they are unwelcome and rude. As young Latinas, we should stand up together and speak out against this daily violence. We deserve to be treated better, we deserve respect, and I wish I had had the courage to tell someone about the way the boys were treating me. It would have saved me a lot of pain and discomfort. I might have been more confident in myself sooner.
If you are experiencing sexual harassment, or know someone who is, this link will give you more information about it, including what you can do. http://www.svfreenyc.org/survivors_factsheet_60.html#3