By Janel Cook, Student Advisor
Sexual harassment is uninvited and unwelcome verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature, especially by a person in authority toward a subordinate (as an employee or student).
The hashtag #MeToo has become a social media phenomenon lately. By using this hashtag on social media, women are sharing their stories of sexual harassment, assault, or abuse. As #MeToo has gained momentum, we are witnessing that many women have experienced these incidents. It is important to remember that boys and men can also be victims of sexual harassment, assault, or abuse. Cultural norms for men place them in a position that causes embarrassment in vocalizing that they too can be victims.
International students may be particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment or abuse for several reasons:
- Initially, a lack of close and familiar relationships
- Place a lot of trust in adults caring for them
- Spotty understanding of the English language
- Cultural differences in body language, physical boundaries
- Are unfamiliar with their host communities
Sexual harassment is often difficult to identify because encounters such as simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents, can seem harmless and minor. When this type of behavior becomes frequent or severe, it can create a hostile or offensive environment. It is considered sexual harassment because it interferes with a student’s concentration, comfort level, and feeling of safety in an environment.
If a student experiences sexual harassment or the like, they are strongly urged to speak with a trusted adult as soon as possible. This could be their host parent, a teacher, a coach, or their coordinator. Please note the importance of a local adult being made aware of the situation before the natural parents are notified. Students can also call the national office 1-800-622-3553 at any time.
Students are recommended to take precautions for their own safety while on program such as walking in groups instead of alone and not being distracted by devices when out in public so that they are fully aware of their surroundings.
While the majority of students have a positive experience on program free from sexual harassment, it is still important to be knowledgeable about the topic. Knowledge leads to prevention and early detection.
We fully acknowledge that this is not an easy topic to discuss but also acknowledge that that does not make it any less important. We are all stronger when all genders of all ages enable one another to be kind and respectful of personal boundaries.
Questions or comments? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.