Title IX: sexual harassment explained

No one expects it to happen to them on their college campus, but it often occurs in secret. It can hinder the victim’s learning or work performance. It can leave one feeling isolated and unsafe.

Sexual harassment: both men and women as college students or staff can potentially be subject to it.

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination, illegal for students through Title IX, and for employees through Title VII.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) section of Title IX especially seeks to end sexual harassment and violence against women.

Through these, strides have been made to create education and training on sexual harassment, to improve community response and to provide ways for legal action to be taken in response to these incidents.

What is sexual harassment? Its classifications may span broader than most think.

Sexual harassment is, as defined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), comprised of “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature” when submitting to such conduct is made a condition of one’s employment or education, when “submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment [or educational] decisions affecting such individual” or when “such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work [or academic] performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working [or educational] environment.”

Some students may not be aware their behavior could potentially be classified as harassment. Even some of the “joking around” that happens in the dorms can be classified as harassment if it creates an environment that is hostile, offensive or intimidating.

The spectrum goes as far as to include repeatedly sexually oriented kidding, joking, teasing and flirting. Demeaning and derogatory comments about women in general, even if not sexual, can also be considered a form of sexual harassment.

Other examples include – though are not limited to – unwelcome sexual advances; graphic commentary about an individual’s body, sexual prowess or sexual deficiencies; leering, whistling, touching, pinching or brushing against another’s body; offensive crude language; or displaying objects or pictures which are sexual in nature that would create hostile or offensive work[, educational,] or living environments.” These examples are provided by the American Council on Education’s publication entitled “Sexual Harassment on Campus: A Policy and Program on Deterrence.”

Sexual harassment is seen as coercive and threatening to individuals. The environment it creates has been deemed not proper for or encouraging of teaching, learning, or working. As such, hostile-environment harassment is also a violation of Title IX regulations.

Another kind of harassment to be aware of is “quid-pro-quo harassment.” This Latin term translates to “something for something.”

In layman’s terms, it occurs when an individual offers – or even hints – something in return for a sexual favor. It can also work in reverse, when an individual threatens to revoke or remove something unless a sexual favor is completed.

Sexual harassment hinders an individual’s safety and ability to learn or work in an environment. If you have been victim to any form of sexual harassment or assault, you don’t have to remain silent; you can file a Title IX Incident Report here.

As a part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, there is also a survey for students and staff to take regarding their feelings on equality, respect and boundaries at Johnson here.

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