3 – Sisters Act: Sexual Harassment & Revenge Porn

16-days-respect-1

It’s just a bit of flirting.

She was asking for it.

I didn’t know how to say no.

No-one believed me – they said I was making it up, being too sensitive.

He didn’t really hurt her.

It’s  not a big deal, it’s just a bit of fun.

Just a bit of fun.

Sexual harassment is not just a bit of fun. In fact it is one of the most pervasive forms of gender based violence. It can occur in schools, in workplaces, in public spaces and in the home. Although both men and women are affected by sexual harassment, women are disproportionately the victims.

What does sexual harassment look like and why does it happen?

Sexual harassment is unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature which:

  • violates your dignity
  • makes you feel intimidated, degraded or humiliated
  • creates a hostile or offensive environment[1]

You don’t need to have previously objected to someone’s behaviour for it to be considered unwanted.

Sexual harassment can include:

  • sexual comments or jokes
  • physical behaviour, including unwelcome sexual advances, touching, groping, brushing, invading your personal space and various other forms of sexual assault
  • displaying pictures, photos or drawings of a sexual nature
  • talking about or asking questions of a sexual nature
  • sending emails with a sexual content

Colleagues, classmates, members of the public, members of your family or friendship group and people in positions of authority can all sexually harass or be victims of sexual harassment.

There is a clear distinction between sexual harassment and flirting. This is a good way to distinguish:

Sexual Harassment Flirting
Feels Bad Feels Good
One Sided Reciprocal
Feels Unattractive Feels Attractive
Degrading Compliment
Feels Powerless Feels in Control
Power-based Equality
Negative Unwanted Touching Positive Wanted Touching
Illegal Legal
Invading Open
Demeaning Flattering
Feels Sad/Angry Feels Happy
Negative Self-Esteem Positive Self-Esteem

16-days-srhr-3

Sexual Harassment and ‘Rape Culture’:

Like most forms of gender based violence sexual harassment happens because of cultures which facilitate or excuse sexually violent behaviour. During the 1970s American feminists used the term ‘rape culture’ to define societies which blame victims of sexual violence while excusing or even praising acts of sexual aggression. According to feminist Emilie Buchwald:

In a rape culture both men and women assume that sexual violence is a fact of life, inevitable. However . . . much of what we accept as inevitable is in fact the expression of values and attitudes that [we] can change. [2]

Sexual Harassment, Cyber Bullying and Revenge Porn:

As well as the above examples, sexual harassment can also take place through social media and chatrooms. Revenge Porn along with cyber bullying are two emerging forms of gender based violence.

Revenge porn is the sexually explicit portrayal of one or more people distributed without their consent via any medium. Revenge porn is a form of psychological, sexual and emotional abuse as well as domestic violence.

Perpetrator: The person who shares the image publicly with the intent of causing the victim distress or harm. They may do this out of revenge after a break up or as a way to control their victims (domestic abuse). Sometimes it’s done as a mode of financial extortion.

Trolls: Other online users who share the image “for kicks” or to further humiliate the victim. There are lots of websites set up to make money from people uploading or sharing images.

The victim may have consented to having the image taken, but not for it to be shared. Victims are often blamed for letting the images be taken in the first place. This can cause further  further psychological distress to their feelings of being violated and ashamed.

Revenge Porn is illegal in a number of countries including the UK, but prosecution is slow and difficult.  If you have been abused via revenge porn or any other form of sexual abuse or harassment here are some steps you could follow[3]:

  1. If it is safe, try confronting the perpetrator,
  2. Record all instances of the harassment or the abuse (e.g. photocopy images, save emails/texts, write down any instances of harassment/abuse with the date, location, frequency of the encounters etc.)
  3. Tell other people (family, friends, colleagues)
  4. If it occurs in a work or school environment, obtain copies of your work records (including performance evaluations) and keep these copies at home

Sexual abuse, harassment or violence of any kind is NEVER the victims fault. It is awful when people we trust betray us and when people don’t respect us. However knowing your rights is the key to protecting yourself. Never be afraid to OWN your personal space and to be clear to others what you appreciate and what you don’t. You have a right to your body.

[1] https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/discrimination/what-are-the-different-types-of-discrimination/sexual-harassment/

[2] http://www.wavaw.ca/what-is-rape-culture/

[3] https://feminist.org/911/harasswhatdo.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/11531954/What-is-the-law-on-revenge-porn.html

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