#GrandviewToo

Let’s enter the new year wiser than we left the last.

By Michelle Rabinovich

It doesn’t seem that long ago that Mariah Carey botched her New Year’s Eve performance. Where did 2017 go?

This past year was full of excitement. We ushered in a new President, learned that Beyoncé was pregnant with twins, had an underwhelming solar eclipse, and discovered our collective admiration for Salt Bae.

Oh, yeah. We are also rapidly adding to a list of powerful men accused of sexual harassment.

At this point, it might be more simple to get a list of men in Hollywood who aren’t involved in some sort of sex scandal.

After Harvey Weinstein, everyone from actor Kevin Spacey to President George H.W. Bush has been accused of some form of inappropriate advances towards others.

Especially after Grandview has recently gone through its own related drama, I think the time for reform is long overdue.

All jokes aside, the focus of our society should be less on controversy and more upon prevention and dealing with the problems before they explode to the international news level.

An anonymous female student bravely shared her experiences in the workforce.

“I am honestly so sick and tired of seeing women mistreated in the world,” she said. “Every time I think we are making progress as a society...I just get really disappointed. It just sucks because if you experience something like this, it completely ruins you. It makes you feel so ugly”.

Perhaps one of the biggest problems is the stigma around speaking up and seeking justice for wrongdoings.

“Oh, I tried. For sure,” another student said. “It happened to me at work, and I told a manager who said they didn’t believe me. Another instance occurred and I spoke to the owner, but he refused to take action. He said he was on my side, but actions speak louder than words. Even at school, we don’t have any type of seminar or training about how to see and deal with sexual harassment and assault. It’s disgusting,” she added.

As a school, as a community, and as a society in general, we tend to have a “see no evil, say no evil” approach to sexual harassment.

According to the Huffington Post, 1 in 3 women has between the ages of 18-34 has been sexually harassed at work.

One more time: one third of women just within that age bracket has been made unsafe in a work environment, especially in food and service hospitality.

You might be wondering why more people aren’t put away. On top of coworkers that don’t face punishment, The American Association of University Women revealed that a mere 29 percent of women reported the harassment.

“I think I didn’t say anything because I didn’t really know exactly what was happening. It was my first job when I was 15,” another female student at GHS said. “I guess I just thought that because he never touched me, he technically wasn’t doing anything wrong.”

Unfortunately, this is a common yet blatantly incorrect stance.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commision department defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature”. In addition, it is also unlawful to make offensive comments about your sex in general.

This includes being sent naked photos and unwanted suggestive texts. Between minors, actions like this are classified as the distribution of child pornography, which leaves first-time offenders looking at 15-30 years in prison in addition to becoming a registered sex offender.

It should be mentioned that this law doesn’t protect women from simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents, but rather protects women when their work environment becomes hostile, offensive, or results in unfair employment opportunities such as being fired or demoted simply based on sex.

At the time of writing this article, “Me Too” has been tweeted over 1.7 million times, reaching over 85 countries around the globe.

Another common misconception is that harassment can only come from higher ups in the corporate ladder. However, harassment can come from other areas, such as coworkers, a supervisor from a different location, or even a client or customer.

Interestingly, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (The act that makes quid pro quo and hostile work environment sexual harassment illegal) only applies to companies with over 15 employees. For small or local businesses, women are not protected at the federal level.

So, what can we do as members of the Grandview community?

For one thing, we should add a unit on sexual harassment and assault to our health programs. For too long the curriculum has had a miniscule window that talks about bullying, depression, and abstinence without modernizing the curriculum to fit a very serious current issue.

“I do think we could probably integrate some curriculum or some kind of training about what sexual harassment is,” said Grandview Counselor Ryan Seely. “Perhaps in the seminars with the freshman class, perhaps within the health classrooms… but I also think there needs to be some conversation about how to seek out advice on that, or how to seek out someone to talk to about that”.

With “The Silence Breakers” being named TIME’s person of the year for 2017, it is clear that the world around us is changing. This social movement started with just a few brave people who spoke out using the “Me Too” movement, in which Actress Alyssa Milano tweeted:

“Me too. Suggested by a friend. If all the women who were sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as their status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem. If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted, write ‘Me Too’ as a reply to this tweet.”

At the time of writing this article, “Me Too” has been tweeted over 1.7 million times, reaching over 85 countries around the globe.

“I think there needs to be an awareness,” says Seely. “And you’re seeing a wave of that coming out of politics, out of Hollywood. It’s absolutely disgusting, what’s going on. But I think it’s good at the same time because it’s starting conversation. It’s creating an awareness. You can’t have that awareness unless people talk.”

I can’t think of a single seminar, school fundraiser, or campaign that Grandview ran to benefit victims of sexual assault.

Grandview’s community members have been consistently amazing at raising money for things they believe in. For example, during the 2015-2016 school year; GHS raised over $27,000 for their Make-A-Wish child. I am sure that if we ran a fundraiser for a non profit foundation such as the Joyful Heart we could raise more than enough money to make a difference.

“You have organizations like ‘No Place for Hate’, where students pledge to not bully. There is an ownership among the Grandview community that you’re not going to partake in bullying. Like if  you recognize what sexual harassment is and not to do it, ‘No Place for Hate’ eliminates bullying among the student body, and that’s a powerful thing,” says Seely. “You can have teachers tell you what to do all day, but when you as a student body own it and say ‘this is a problem and we collectively are not going to do this’, that spreads like wildfire.”

For students who have witnessed or been victimized by sexual harassment, the counseling team at Grandview is ready to help.

“If there is something within them… that feels like something has happened and hasn’t been addressed or doesn’t feel right: Trust that feeling… Trust it, and seek help,” says Seely.

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