By Ashley Oglesby
Although not commonly discussed sexually harassment is the silent attacker of many students. Sexual harassment as explained by Terry Payne, GPC police lieutenant is defined as unwanted sexual acts.
He makes reference to the GPC handbook which deems sexual harassment to not only include unwelcomed sexual advances but also request for sexual favors, degrading verbal or written comments about an individual’s clothing or physical attributes and displays of sexual suggestive objects, pictures, text, cards, letters, or other printed materials that do not serve an academic purpose.
*Sarah Meister, GPC student experienced firsthand the painful effect of sexual harassment starting in primary school. “The first few times I was sexually harassed I was in elementary and then it happened in middle school,” said Meister.
She explained that the incidents usually occurred when the teacher left the classroom or left the class unattended. Meister recalled that her first attacker was a girl named Whitney from her music class. “She used to follow me around and touch me when we were standing in line,” recollected Meister. “She used to grab my butt.” Meister was humiliated. She didn’t want her peers to think she was homosexual but felt that she had no one to tell.
“I couldn’t prove it to my teachers,” said Meister. She added that she also didn’t want her peers to consider her a snitch. Lt. Payne advised students to tell someone. “Report it to a public safety officer or to an instructor immediately,” added Lt. Payne. “If someone feels that they have been violated we have them come in and complete an incident report.” He explained that afterwards they report to the dean of students and deal with the case according to its severity. “Every case is different,” said Lt. Payne. Depending on the situation, students can choose to be escorted to their classes if they do not feel safe or have their class rescheduled to avoid contact with their attacker.
Lt. Payne noted that the university has not experienced any recent cases of sexual harassment and credits that to his team being visual on campus. “We encourage people not to get physical,” said Lt. Payne. He noted that students horse-playing easily leads to unwanted touching and a complaint that a person was inappropriately touched.
*Name has been changed.