Report Sexual Harassment, Even If It’s From Your Friends

By Ruchi Patel (ChE ’18)

Girls at Cooper (yes, I speak for all of them here) are all too familiar with the casual inappropriate sexual comment that goes unnoticed by everyone else, and when it is noticed, it ends in a patch-up hug and is never spoken about again.

This has happened to me before. I was once waiting to cross a street with a group of all boys, my friends, and one of them said to the others: “We could gangbang Ruchi right now if we wanted to.”

No. I understand that this suggestion might be lighthearted and not considered true to his intentions, but his articulation reveals two things:

First, some boys think that they are in charge of situations in which girls are the minority. It is not okay, in any case, to “gangbang,” and a boy thinking that he could allow it if he “wanted to,” reveals a major flaw in his upbringing and his understanding of society.

The action of gang-rape is a cruel crime against girls (and their parents and brothers and sisters and friends and the rest of humanity). Gang-rape is theft and no one has the right to steal another’s dignity in this way (or in any other way, as a matter of fact). Theft is never justified, and to think that it may be justified in regards to a minority is a dangerously severe delusion. It is the equivalent of thinking that stealing is okay if someone else isn’t watching, or if whoever is watching is insignificant.

But even saying, not only doing, is a violation. “Gang-rape” is a heavy word with harsh implications and a presence that cannot be ignored. Words like that are not to be thrown around casually—they hit hard. The implied possibility of gang-rape is almost as atrocious as carrying through with it. Such callous comments are disorienting because girls do not expect that someone, especially a friend, could be capable to thinking or saying them.

“But even saying, not only doing, is a violation.”

This kind of thinking isn’t generational. It is not by chance that boys think this way or say these things. We should not shrug off sexual harassment as something that is inevitable, or that comes and goes in a lifetime. Sexual harassment comes from a lack of moral integrity and a lousy upbringing. And this is born in the individual, not a group. Every harasser is at fault because of his independent breach and lapse in judgment and humanity.

“Every harasser is at fault because of his independent breach and lapse in judgment and humanity. “

Second, some boys believe that they could articulate something hurtful, even if they didn’t mean it, just because it has been said or done before by other boys. Saying hurtful things, knowing they will hurt, is never okay, no matter how lightheartedly they are said. When someone says “Whoa, that’s not okay. You can’t say that,” you can’t say that! In any circumstance. To anyone, ever. You can’t ignore the reaction or end it with a hug. You have to apologize and then never do it again.

And when you apologize, you have to be sincere and self-aware. Apologizing out of a fear of consequences against you is not apologizing. It’s compromise. But compromise can only get you out of one situation. So be self-aware. Understand why you have transgressed, and find the self-control to never do it again. If you cannot understand, then you are morally weak and deserve no mercy from the girls who are the subjects of your depravity.

But where is the guarantee that boys will learn? There isn’t. We cannot hope that all boys will amend with one incident. That is impractical and naïve, and girls cannot afford to approach a breach in humanity with impractical and naivetés. The best we can do report each incident with the trust that the message will reach one harasser at a time.

Girls: be it verbal or physical harassment, report it. Yes, there might be social consequences. We’re taught that no one likes tattle-tales. But does reporting a personal offense qualify as snitching? You are protecting yourself, and it’s called personal safeguarding. Speaking out for others is policing. Neither of those things are wrong. In fact, they are undoubtedly right. Those who ostracize you for reporting are just as ignorant as those who sexually harass, and they don’t matter, because they have some learning to do themselves. If reporting your personal incident will protect your dignity and others’ too, then it is not “snitching.” It is a calculated move with no immediate rewards, but only the satisfaction of hoping that you’ve stopped one harasser in his tracks.

Report the sexual harassment whenever and wherever you see it. Not reporting is being passive, which is worse than being labeled a thin-skinned snitch. If enough cases are dealt with passiveness, then sexual harassment will never become the big fat deal that it needs to become. Reporting is not just “bitching about it.” It’s confronting the oppression that has plagued women through all of history. Don’t let your case become the one that hinders this change instead of pushing for it.

“Not reporting is being passive, which is worse than being labeled a thin-skinned snitch.”

If I could, I would ask all parents to raise their girls as if they were boys and raise their boys as if they were girls. But parenting is not under my control. And neither can I convince each harasser of his ignorance. Such ignorance is a result of his shitty morality, and this shitty morality comes from a shitty ethical education.

It is too late to expect complete rectification. So I speak to the girls who are in my situation and desperate for action, to the girls who want to fight for each other, and to the girls who will listen: REPORT!

*Please review the following flowchart: Should I Report it?

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