Campus workshop addresses sexual harassment, dating violence & stalking

By Amy Huber, Editor –

Multiple sexual assaults near the Grand Valley State University campus have been in the

news, and several also occurred at Hope College in Holland that were not made public until

much later.

No reports of assaults on the MCC campus have been made recently, although

administrative officials are taking a proactive approach.

One is a recent on-campus workshop on sexual harassment, dating violence and stalking.

According to Seth York, a counselor at the MCC Counseling and Advising Center,

defining sexual harassment is important to understanding the issue.

York said the MCC counselors want to let people know they are here to help.

“We want to identify and share with the campus community the behaviors that constitute

stalking, harassment and dating violence,” he said.

Counselors are available in Room 101, and anyone can make a confidential report using

the MCC Behavior Intervention System (BIT).

Anonymous reports for victims of sexual misconduct may be submitted to

<www.muskegoncc.edu/bit > Confidential reporting is available by reporting to MCC

counseling staff when the victim may not want to trigger an investigation.

“There also are plenty of trustworthy people at MCC who want to support you and can

point you in the right direction,” York said. “They can be mentors, faculty, and/or staff.”

York said that knowledge of what constitutes unacceptable behaviors is a first step to

prevention.

“Sexual harassment is unwelcome verbal, visual, or physical conduct of a sexual nature

that is severe or pervasive and affects working conditions or creates a hostile school or work

environment,” he said.

He provided example of unacceptable verbal or written behavior:

 Comments about one’s clothing, personal behavior, or a person’s body.

 Sexual or sex-based jokes

 Sexual innuendoes

 Requesting sexual favors or repeatedly asking a person out

 Spreading rumors about a person’s personal or sexual life

 Threatening a person, sending emails or text messages of a sexual nature.

Physical harassment includes assault; impeding or blocking movement; and inappropriate

touching of a person’s clothing, kissing, hugging, or patting.

“A common theme, or at least this is what I was trying for, throughout was boundaries,”

York said. “We all have them, whether they are visual, physical or verbal. In the workshop, I

encouraged students to do some self-reflection concerning what their individual boundaries are.”

York added that exploring specifically what those boundaries are, as well as stabilizing

them is important.

stats“It may assist us in recognizing when they are being crossed at an early stage in a

relationship,” he said, “or even in a situation that is new to us altogether.”

York also distinguished between nonverbal and visual sexual harassment, as well as quid

pro quo (“this for that”) behavior. Nonverbal harassment includes looking up and down a

person’s body, derogatory gestures or facial expressions of a sexual nature, and following a

person. Visual behaviors include posters, drawings, pictures, screensavers, emails or texts of a

sexual nature. Quid pro quo occurs when a person in a position or authority demands sexual

favors as a condition to getting or keeping a job benefit or good grade.

“Conduct is not sexual harassment if it is welcome,” York explained. “For this reason, it

is important to communicate, either verbally or in writing, to the harasser that the conduct makes

you uncomfortable and you want it to stop.”

Sexual assault is a serious situation, York said.

“Sexual assault is an involuntary sexual act in which a person is threatened, coerced or

forced to engage against their will,” York said, “or any sexual touching of a person who has not

consented. This includes rape, hand to genital contact (coping, fondling), forced kissing, forced

nudity, and photographs or videos of people in sexual poses.”

Sexual assault without force can include groping in crowds, secret photographing,

peering, exhibitionism, and sexual harassment.

Although a single unwanted request for a date or one sexually abusive comment might

offend and be inappropriate, it may not be sexual harassment, York said.

“One person brought up a very valid point relating to the importance of documenting

incidents that may lead up to sexual harassment,” said York.   “Earlier in the presentation we

discussed how although a single unwanted request for a date or one sexually suggestive comment

might offend you and/or be inappropriate, it may not be sexual harassment. However, a number

of relatively minor separate incidents may add up to sexual harassment if the incidents affect

your work, social or school environment.”

The workshop also addressed manipulation (control) and fear in a dating relationship, the

difference between flirting and sexual harassment,

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