When is a hug considered sexual harassment?

Teenagers nowadays think nothing of giving each other hugs to greet each other. It is how we raised them. We raised them to show affection, we raised them to love. We also raised them to respect. We raised them to recognize the boundaries of what is right, what is wrong and what is acceptable behavior and what is not.

The other day when I picked her up from school, she was livid. She was outraged that on two separate occasions that day, two boys she considered as friends hugged her as is their usual way greeting each other. The first incident happened between classes. Her friend hugged her but in addition nuzzled her neck and kissed her neck. She said she was disgusted but was too shocked to say anything at the time. A little while later as she was going in to the classroom, another boy did the same thing to her. Whether the two contrived to do this to her or not, she is not sure. She is sure of how it made her feel. It made her feel uncomfortable and it made her feel dirty. She ran into the shower as soon as she got home to wash it all off. The thing is, you can not simply wash off the feeling of having been violated leaves behind.

You can’t simply chuck it to teenage hormones and that boys will be boys. Was she partly responsible for having been subjected to this? Should she consider changing the way she relates to her friends and should she be the one compelled to change classes so she does not have to deal with them again? The answer is a resounding NO.

We raised our girls to know right from wrong and to respect others. We expect them to be treated the same way. We also want them to become women who respect themselves and who demand to be treated treated with respect. They are lucky they have a father who is adamant about protecting his girls. He is the one who pushed her to report the incident to the school. He immediately drove them back to school and conferred with the counselor and the school police. To make a long story short, an investigation was conducted, and the two boys were interviewed. They offered to apologize to her but they were counseled that an apology is a paltry offering for their offense and they have been ordered to stay away from her or face graver consequences.

Our daughter will be going away to college soon and we want her to learn not to let things go by without doing something about it. High school is probably the last institution they will be in where they can still be protected by adults who care about them. Their school, we thought, did an outstanding job handling this situation.

College is an entirely different world and this is where we are sending our gentle and caring girls to. For instance, in this article, a girl is raped in her dorm room and local police refused to prosecute. They say that “one of out 5 women will be sexually assaulted during her college years” and that the perpetrators are seldom expelled or suspended. What the hell?!! Expelled or suspended? We’re talking rape here. They should be prosecuted and put in jail!

One out of five women (that’s 20%) are sexually assaulted during their college years and of those, only twenty percent report it. The rest, an astounding 80 percent of women who are sexually assaulted remain silent. Why, when rape, short of murder, is the most heinous crime perpetrated against women? Many women remain silent because even in these enlightened times we are still made to feel that we are responsible somehow. That maybe we did something that caused this to happen to us. That somehow, it is our fault. Well, we need to get out of that way of thinking.

Sexual assault is anytime a woman or man is subjected to a sexual act that he/she did not consent to. It does not matter if alcohol or promiscuity is involved; if you feel that your personal space has been violated sexually, then it is rape. Rape does not always involve force as some would think, some of the most insidious incidents were perpetrated through coercion or threat or even through drugs. Rape is a heinous act that affects you for the rest of your life. It should not be taken lightly by either sex.

If you’d like to learn more about the issue of sexual assaults in college campuses, read more about the struggle of campus rape victims for justice on the NPR website and on the Center for Public Integrity website.

Rights Of Sexual Assault Victims

What’s now called the Clery Act, enacted in November 1990, requires that higher education institutions publicly disclose all crime that happens on campus. The idea was that students and their parents should be informed — and that public scrutiny would force colleges to get serious about preventing crime.

A 1992 amendment to the Clery Act added a victims’ bill of rights, which requires schools to provide certain basic rights to survivors of sexual assaults on campus, including:

  • Giving the alleged victim and the alleged assailant equal opportunity to have others present in disciplinary proceedings.
  • Notifying alleged victims of their right to pursue justice through local police, and of the availability of counseling services.
  • Notifying alleged victims that they have the option of changing classes and dormitory assignments in order to avoid their alleged assailants.

If a university fails to appropriately handle a reported case of sexual assault, alleged victims can report this to the U.S. Department of Education. Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 — a civil rights law that prohibits sex-based discrimination — sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape are also considered discrimination on the basis of sex.

If a college or university is aware of but ignores sexual harassment or assault, it may be held liable under the law.

Visit the Web site of Center for Public Integrity to learn more about the law and resources for victims.

— From NPR research and reporting by the Center for Public Integrity

I debated whether to blog about this or not because it seems so personal. I want to protect the privacy of my daughters but the more I think about it and the more I look into it, I become more convinced that it is an issue that could not be ignored and that the more people that know about it, the better it would be for my daughters and all the other daughters out there.

If you have daughters, even sons, this is a subject not to be taken lightly. Any woman who has been assaulted will tell you, the scars do not fade. They stay with you for life.

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One thought on “When is a hug considered sexual harassment?

  1. Anony Woman

    As a woman, I believe that sexual harassment is wrong. However, I believe that parents and society have taken things too far! If the girl was hugged by two of her friends in a way that she didn’t like, then why didn’t she just ask them to stop. Maybe they didn’t know that it was offensive to her. She should say something to them. If they refuse to stop after this, then she can go to the school administration. Here, she is placing the futures of these boys at risk for something that they may not even realize had offended her. We have created a culture where girls are above the law in many respects. We can hug guys, touch guys, do whatever we want with them…even if it makes them uncomfortable….and nothing happens to us. But, if a guy so much as looks at a girl the wrong way…meaning nothing by it….it is reported, he is labeled a sex offender or kicked out of school or fired from his job. This is ridiculous…I am sorry to say. We are creating a generation of men that are scared to live. If we are offended, talk to the man first…most likely he didn’t know that he was being offensive and he would stop. There is no reason to ruin is future. Also, because so many girls and women and parents think that they should report every little thing, be it a glance, a hello said in a husky voice that is taken to be sexual advance, or a hug, administrations and police no longer have the resources to actually investigate a rape. They are too busy investigating the inappropriate high five. Furthermore, I have seen women, who used to be friends of mine, cry rape every time she was with a man, but she did this not because it was actually rape, but because she didn’t want people to think she was loose. The problem in that situation is not with the man, but with the woman. Moreover, there are plenty of articles out there that talk about how crying wolf is actually causing the police and administrations to not prosecute because they never can tell who is telling the truth or who just wants to get back at the guy. These comments and these actions that many women partake in are destroying our men. If we are offended, talk to the source first. Don’t try to destroy his life and put something in his permanent record or do something that may lead to him spending time in jail. Obviously, if he continues his behavior, then you should say something. I am all for women’s rights, but I am absolutely not for destroying other people in the process of enforcing my rights in a ridiculous manner where I cannot even talk to the opposite sex about what offended me. I am not sure when we became such a sensitive culture. We need to learn to talk to one another and not always run to the the principle or the police. This just creates additional rifts and destroyed lives. I have seen way too many lives destroyed by women who fail to talk to a man who one time gave her a hug or commented how a dress looked nice on her…if you are offended, tell him and he will stop. Most men are not sexual deviants looking to destroy our lives and make us feel uncomfortable. I think that by discussing our feelings with the guys, we are creating an atmosphere where we demand respect. We are going to the source and showing that we are powerful. If we really want guys to respect us, we need to be powerful on our own. The world is not a friendly place and you are not always going to be able to run and hide…you need to confront the person that offended you. Now, obviously, if you were really raped, I would not say confront your rapist. Then, you can go to the authorities. But, I think you should confront the guy if it is a comment about how nice your dress looked or a friendly hug.


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