A Look Into Sexual Harassment on Campus

by Marissa Scales, Isabella Fishbough, and Zarai Travis-Batalla

After hearing all of these people on our televisions, movies, and even in the news talking about sexual assault happening just about everywhere, it made us wonder if this goes on in our school and what happens if and when it does. We interviewed an on-campus officer, teachers, and administrators to uncover the process when a sexual harassment claim is presented on campus. The initial claim, whoever it is brought to, has to be reported to the SAFE coordinator, where the case is dealt with. If it ends up becoming a serious case, the authorities are contacted and a police report is filed. But that still leaves us with the question of if, and how often, this happens in our school; so we asked some students and faculty.

When we interviewed many students on the topic of sexual harassment, they all seemed to answer one question the same: “it’s never the victim’s fault.” But what causes the actual assault? Many of them often said “it’s people looking for some kind of attention” or “selfish desire.” Almost all of the female students we interviewed had said they had been sexually harassed either physically or verbally, on and off campus. None of the male students we had interviewed had said they have never been physically or verbally assaulted on or off school campus. But every student agreed that sexual harassment–whether it be verbal or physical–is a serious topic and should not be taken lightly. A few female students– Alejandra Sanabria, Zayna Salahuddin, Gabrielle Flores, and Maria Martinez–had said there was more verbal harassment in middle school, while in high school they hadn’t even seen or heard anything about it.

Many teachers and admin have said it is because students have not been educated on what is, and what isn’t respectful and correct behavior. Mrs. Munoz even said that sexual harassment is caused by “students feeling entitled.” Others, like Dean Torres have said it has to do with women being objectified through different cultures and the “gender issue of women not being accepted.” Many of the admin we interviewed had said that no one had reported any sexual assault or harassment cases this year. Mr. Whittaker had said that he had heard both verbal and physical sexual harassment going on in school from previous years; he said that it’s caused by students that “don’t know how to keep their thoughts or hands to themselves.”  

On campus security, Officer Engstrom, hasn’t been at Freedom for very long and hasn’t had any cases on this campus reported to him. He did say that when students are going to the same school and are being sexually harassed, students will “Go to SAFE coordinator, and there is a no-contact contract put in place as well as a complete schedule change if they have the same lunch or any of the same classes.” Although Officer Engstrom has not seen nor heard of any cases this past school year, he does know of the cases on college campuses like UCF, and because of that, he sees sexual harassment cases more with young adults and not minors. “Majority are false allegations so we have to treat real cases as the false ones when we investigate…” said Officer Engstrom.

Some of the deans, like Mr. Youtz and Mr. Walker, wouldn’t answer some of the questions that were asked. Youtz had said that the information was “confidential” and that he “didn’t feel comfortable answering” our questions. This is a very sensitive topic, so it is understandable why some people would be uncomfortable. Although, when we tried asking Mr. Walker the same questions, he had requested we email them to him, seeing as he didn’t feel comfortable answering these questions in front of students. When we attempted to reach out to him, we never got a reply, the email was sent to him back in December. Now, why might some of our deans and teachers be so unwilling to answer our questions? Again, they might be uncomfortable, but ignoring students when they have tried to interview someone sounds a little suspicious. Yes, these cases must be confidential, but we believe that our admin could do a bit more to answer a few questions and listen to our concerns, especially with cases as serious as this.

Nearly all of the admin we had interviewed or spoken to had said that the case had to be brought to the SAFE coordinator: Ms. Griffin. Although we had not interviewed her in person, seeing as she’s constantly all around campus, she did tell us that, “Sexual harassment is a discipline issue that is usually initiated with a witness statement.” This was something we had already known, but she also added that she didn’t have most of the information we were asking for. Everyone else had said that the SAFE coordinator was who we should see to get our information from and where all sexual harassment cases were brought to.

From what we had found, no sexual harassment cases have been reported this school year. Although reports have not been made, that doesn’t mean instances like this don’t occur. According to RAINN and the National Sexual Assault Hotline, an American is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds. Crimes like this need to be stopped. Luckily, Freedom has the necessary steps to prevent this from happening, and to punish the harasser. Even so, cases like this occur all the time and some victims or witnesses are too afraid to speak up. Don’t be afraid, please speak up, and if you are a bystander seeing the events leading up to or the actual incident, please do not stand by. Sexual harassment has plagued not only our schools, but our country for too long, enough is enough.