I found out last week that the younger sister of a friend, let’s call her Lily, was being sexually harassed by her project supervisor. Lily is in her final year. She is 21. When the “lecturer” started harassing her, she wasn’t even sure if it was harassment because his roving hands “touched her by mistake.” She was uncomfortable being around him, but well, your project supervisor is like a small god when you are in your final year. So, Lily thought if it’s just thoseby mistaketouches, she would endure it until she graduates, but that only emboldened the man.
Sexual harassment is something nobody prepares for. It can drive someone crazy. On one end, your body and spirit are being violated, and on the other, you are afraid of what will happen if people find out or if you speak out. You that are a victim of a crime is more afraid than the criminal.
I know that it is easy to tell people what to do in difficult situations, but I think some certain steps can help. The first step is to tell someone you trust, a person who will not dismiss you or call you a liar. Sharing a problem like sexual harassment with the right person goes a long way.
The handful of cases we’ve heard of where the sexual harasser was jailed only happened because the victims kept records. It’s sad, but in this world, the burden is always on women to show proof. Try to record/take notes of dates and times. If there are text messages or calls, save them and the call logs if you need to give details.
Back to Lily’s story. Lily’s mum asked her church group for advice, and someone who knew someone was able to reach the school and pressure the HOD to change Lily’s supervisor. That was all they agreed to do. They refused to treat it as a crime. The HOD said no one else has complained about the man. Imagine all the girls that person has abused and will abuse!
Lily tried to get other girls who also told her they had been victims of that lecturer to report with her, but they were all afraid. They didn’t want to be victimized. They wanted to graduate in peace. Sigh. The criminal should be the one that’s afraid. You can fight back. You are not just a victim. In a school or workplace, there should be an appropriate authority that one can report such situations. If not, look outside for help. These days, NGOs are willing to assist. Also, if it’s a situation you can leave, get yourself out first for the sake of your physical and mental health. You’ll live to fight another day.