Recognizing and Speaking Up About Sexual Harassment in All Forms
Women speaking up against sexual harassment, assault and misconduct is a timely topic and a contagious moment of empowering women to come forward and speak up about their experiences.
According to statistics, more than 50 percent of women in the American workplace have been sexually harassed or assaulted. Every nine seconds an American is sexually violated and nine percent of the time it’s a child. 95 percent of college students who are assaulted don’t come forward.
However the climate in gender equality is rapidly changing. In 2016, we all heard the recordings that revealed our president Donald Trump bragging about grabbing a women’s crotch. It raised havoc and caused outrage. An estimated 400,000 people packed the streets of Manhattan to march in solidarity following President Donald Trump’s inauguration when the expected number of participants were 100,000. Merle Robine, of the Upper West Side, held a sign saying, “Women’s rights are human rights.”
“We all have to get out there and say something and say ‘no’ and protect each other,” she said.
Others led chants urging Trump to “grow up.”
The perpetrators accused of sexual violence over the past few years have been growing daily. Celebrities came forward recalling their experiences of sexual harassment against Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, James Toback, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Russel Simmons, Louis C.K., Kevin Spacey and many more. Some apologized for their behavior and some continue to deny these acts of sexual violence.
‘Me Too” spread virally as a two-word hashtag used on social media to denounce acts of sexual misconduct following Harvey Weinstein’s acts of misconduct.
The phrase, long used by social activist Tarana Burke was popularized by actress Alyssa Milano, who encouraged women to tweet their experiences to demonstrate the widespread nature of misogyny. Since then, millions of people have used the hashtag to come forward with their experiences.
While I’ve never been sexually assaulted, I can recall a number of times when in the company of men, I was mistreated by their misogynistic behavior. As a young girl entering high school, a teacher offered me special favors in return for inappropriate behavior. I felt confused by it and I knew it was wrong and felt manipulated but I was afraid to speak up. Years later a running coach that dubbed himself a massage therapist started discussing my breasts as he was massaging me and furthermore encouraging me to try on his team’s sports bar for him “to see how it fit.” The entire episode felt very creepy. I didn’t speak up because I couldn’t find my voice. Instead, I decided never to use male massage therapists going forward.
Years ago, the experiences I had in High School came up in a therapy session. My therapist helped me realize how “wrong” that behavior was and when she unveiled the perspective of “how would it feel if my daughters had a teacher like that in their school?” was the transparent writing on the wall for me. I came forward years after my experiences among other victims and reported those acts of misconduct to protect those vulnerable high school students.
How can we raise awareness and teach our girls and boys to say no?
Here are some tips to share with your children, starting at a young age:
Teach them that some body parts are private:
Tell your children that their private parts are called private because they are not for everyone to see. Explain that mommy and daddy can see them naked, but people outside of the home should only see them with their clothes on. Explain how their doctor can see them without their clothes because mommy and daddy are there with them and the doctor is checking their body.
Teach your child body boundaries:
Tell your child matter-of-factly that no one should touch their private parts and that no one should ask them to touch somebody else’s private parts. Parents will often forget the second part of this sentence. Sexual abuse often begins with the perpetrator asking the child to touch them or someone else.
Tell your child that body secrets are not okay:
Most perpetrators will tell the child to keep the abuse a secret. This can be done in a friendly way, such as, “I love playing with you, but if you tell anyone else what we played they won’t let me come over again.” Or it can be a threat: “This is our secret. If you tell anyone I will tell them it was your idea and you will get in big trouble!” Tell your kids that no matter what anyone tells them, body secrets are not okay and they should always tell you if someone tries to make them keep a body secret.
Teach your child how to get out of scary or uncomfortable situations:
Some children are uncomfortable with telling people “no”— especially older peers or adults. Tell them that it’s okay to tell an adult they have to leave, if something that feels wrong is happening, and help give them words to get out of uncomfortable situations. Tell your child that if someone wants to see or touch private parts they can tell them that they need to leave to go potty.
Kids in adolescence and teens, Teach Your Child to Report It:
Once your child understands what sexual harassment looks like, encourage your child to take action if it occurs to them or someone they know. First, name it.. Next, write down all the details of the event. Finally, tell a trusted adult and report it to the school or to the authorities. When kids stand up for themselves and one another, we take great strides in putting an end to sexual harassment and abuse.
Teach Healthy Romantic Relationships:
When approaching the topic of sexual harassment with young teenagers, first discuss what it means to have a healthy romantic relationship. Stress the fact that a healthy relationship should not make you feel uncomfortable, scared, intimidated, ashamed or embarrassed and should always include mutual respect and compromise. Share some examples from your own experiences — whether it be your own or that of someone in your family or social circle — to help your child begin to define their own ideas about the meaning of a loving relationship.
Define Sexual Harassment:
It’s also important to go over the actual definition of sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment can be:
- Verbal harassment: jokes, cat-calls, rumors or comments
- Internet harassment: posts on social media, texting and emails
- Physical harassment: unwanted touching, kissing or sexual acts
- Nonverbal harassment: gestures or writing sexually explicit things about someone
- Unwanted Behavior: stalking or phone calls. Tell your child to take action if it occurs to them or someone they know. First, name it.
Using holistic modalities to find our voice can have great value.
Breathwork is a self healing modality that allows us to bypass the mind and remove blocks in our body or stored pain and trauma’s that hold us back from freedom. Through breathing through the body we have the ability to clear our chakra’s (the throat to speak up, the solar plexus to step into empowerment, the sacral where we store sexual energy).
Through Breathwork we can also heal the trauma’s from past traumatic events that continue to become repeated patterns and triggers. We use therapeutic talk in a safe space,somatic work and the three part breath which become powerful in the healing process.