By Armelda Xhari – Horizon Guest Writer
I remember the first time my parents took me to the beach. I was six and excited to swim in the sea. The sun was shining bright and it was a little bit windy. Once I got near the water, my excitement started fading away. I started getting the chills and was a little bit shaky. I gathered every piece of strength I could find and started going in. The water was chilly enough that I wanted to get out, but my parents kept telling me I will get used to it. After a few minutes, I started enjoying myself. I kept walking with more confidence and I felt like I could conquer the world. Soon enough, I felt a bump on the sand under my feet. I got so scared, I ran out of the sea with no breath left in me. My parents comforted me, saying, “There are always going to be bumps. They are not going to kill you. You might trip but you have to get back up. You should avoid them but often you cannot, so you should just ignore them for the damage they can do to you is limited.” So, I went back in and the bumps kept scaring me, but there was nothing I could do to change the sea floor. I tried to ignore the bumps and enjoy the water.
As women in Hollywood started coming out with their stories of sexual harassment and abuse, I started thinking of my first day at the beach. I started thinking about how women for the longest time were taught to ignore the bumps. Every cat call, every inappropriate touch or remark are things we should ignore because that’s what men do, and all women go through this, “therefore it is okay.”
While ignoring a bump worked when I was in the sea, this solution does not work with sexual harassment and abuse. Harassment and abuse greatly affects how we see and feels about ourselves and negatively impacts our performance in many aspects of life. Instead of teaching victims to ignore or downplay, why don’t we teach the aggressor to not attack?
Fortunately, in my conversations with Hesston students, they’ve experienced few encounters with sexual harassment, but they do acknowledge its presence. Sophomore Heather Schiefelbein shared her positive experience during her time at HC.
“Usually, I am around all over places, so I feel like if there was something I would have seen it, but seriously I haven’t seen anybody at Hesston get sexually harassed and I personally have not been sexually harassed.”
Despite the generally positive experiences on campus, I have learned that most people I talked to had been sexually harassed at some point in their life, some more often than others. Responses to sexual harassment vary, of course, but for freshman Gabrielle Ridpath, the emotional impact boils down to one word.
“Unsafe, honestly. It makes me feel unsafe and uncomfortable.”
Another freshman, Johnathan Stratton, expressed his concern about the atmosphere that sexual harassment and abuse creates.
“I feel like it is a real problem in America, especially in colleges, and if I was a parent I would be pretty scared to send my kids to a college in this day and age.”
Sexual harassment leaves such a negative impact behind. Because it is something that affects people to a personal level, it is less likely for people to share their story. But sharing our stories is what is going to bring a change and hopefully an end to sexual harassment. Talk to your friends, family, mentors about your experiences. If you feel safe, let the aggressor know that what their doing is not okay. You will be surprised that many people around you have had similar experiences. When it comes to sexual harassment, we don’t have to ignore the bumps along the sea floor.