Sexual Harassments in the Academy

sexual

Any application regarding sexual harassment, help or filing a complaint at the TAU can contact:

Prof. Rachel Erhard. E-mail: elhardr@post.tau.ac.il, Phone: 03-6408540

Student Rights Commissioner on behalf of the Student Union – e-mail: hasbara1@student.co.il

Help center for sexual harassment victims – Phone: 1202

 

What is a sexual harassment?

A sexual harassment is any behavior of a sexual nature of a man, which can harm another person. The harassment does not necessarily have to a sexual motive.

A sexual harassment can take place in different ways:

  • Verbal: hints, requests or suggestions of a sexual nature
  • Non-verbal: staring in intimate body parts, winking, hand movements etc.
  • Variety of behaviors: attempting to obtain sexual favors by promising a material compensation (such as raising a grade or a professional recommendation), using pressure or threats on a sexual basis and/or using violence.

 

A sexual harassment can take place anywhere and anytime, in or outside the house, and by any figure: he can be of any social class, status or profession.

There is also no uniform harassed figure: men and women can find themselves harassed at any age, regardless of their behavior or form of dress.

A sexual harassment can occur not only among strangers, but also between friends, relatives and married couples. The social attitude towards sexual harassment is varied.

 

What is a sexual harassment by law?

According to the law against sexual harassment (1998), a sexual harassment is any of the five following prohibited forms of behavior:

  • Extorting a person to perform a sexual act
  • Indecent assault (meaning a sexually natured act or the revealing of private parts that were made not in consent).
  • Repeated proposals of a sexual nature addressed to a person who has shown the harasser that he is not interested in these. In case of authority relations (staff member-student, for example) – there’s no need to show non-consent.
  • Repeated references addressed to a person focused on his sexuality, when that person showed harasser he is not interested in those references. In the case of authority relations (staff member – student, for example) – there’s no need to show non-consent.
  • Humiliating references directed at a person in relation to gender or sexuality, including sexual orientation, whether he showed it bothers him or not.
  • Read the full text of the law against sexual harassment at the the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor’s website.

 

Non-consent:

Generally a person must show (using behavior or words) that he does not agree to the act of sexual harassment. Even so, this obligation does not apply to the following cases:

  • Blackmail
  • A humiliating reference
  • Taking advantage of authority relations between the harasser and the harassed person
  • Exploiting a position of authority, dependency, treatment, or education – against a minor or a helpless person.
  • Exploiting dependence in psychological or medical treatment.

 

In these cases, even if there was no expression of non-consent and even if there was cooperation – it will be considered as sexual harassment, due to two main reasons:

  • Severity of the crime – extortion, humiliating references, exploitation of position of authority or dependence are so severe in harming the harassed person as well as society at large, it was decided that even if not non-consent was not expressed, it will be considered as sexual harassment.
  • Inability to express disagreement – the law takes into consideration that when there are authority, disciplinary, education relations between the harasser and the harassed person, or a case of taking care of a minor, the victim has no ability to express non-consent. This ability is also denied sometimes in case of behaviors such as extortion or humiliating references because of their severity. The law attempts to cover up the natural inequality inherent in these kinds of relationships and prevent abuse of position of power, by protecting the “weaker” side.  The law automatically assumes that these negative behaviors are undesirable, even if there wasn’t an explicit expression of disagreement.

 

How can the law respond?

Sexual harassment and harassments on the basis of sex are illegal behaviors that harm human dignity, liberty, privacy and equality between the sexes. The law offers 3 ways to respond:

  • Criminal procedure: Sexual harassment and persecution are considered a criminal offense by the law against sexual harassment (1998), therefor you can submit a criminal complaint with the police.
  • Civil procedure: Sexual harassment and persecution are considered a civil wrong by the law against sexual harassment (1998), therefor you can file for civil damages claim.
  • University disciplinary proceedings or other workplace: Sexual harassment and persecution are considered serious disciplinary offenses by the law against sexual harassment (1998), so you can submit a complaint to the sexual harassment commissionaire on behalf of the university or employer.

 

If you wish to do so, you can choose to act on more that one way simultaneously.

 

What does a sexually harassed person experience?

Each harassed person responds differently to sexual harassment. Each has his or her unique coping strategies that are determined by their personality and life circumstances. However, there are a few common responses that can be found, usually in traumatized victims.

Immediately after the disturbing incident and up to a few weeks after, the victim may experience a wide range of emotions including fear, anxiety, shame, stress, fatigue, anger, helplessness and guilt. In addition, he or she may experience physical pain and sleep disturbances.

In the long run, sexual harassment mat have professional and economic consequences. Students that suffer harassment during their studies may feel their own learning abilities decrease as well as their academic aspirations. Sometimes they are forced to repeat the same course several times, or even put a stop to their education altogether.

 

What can you do if you feel you were sexually harassed?

As different harassment victims experience different emotions following the harassment – so they can choose to act in different ways in response. Each course of action is legitimate and acceptable, as long as it reflects the victim’s wishes. For example:

  • Choose not to do anything.
  • Contact the sexual harassment commissionaire at the university. The commissionaire will review complaint’s details and decide whether to transfer it to a disciplinary complaint process. If the harassment took place in a different workplace, contact the person in charge of sexual harassments at the workplace itself.
  • Turn to a civil court and file suit for damages.
  • Turn to criminal proceedings and file a police complaint.
  • Turn to treatments as needed.
  • Contact a sexual assault help center for victims.

 

In any case it is always advisable to share your feelings with someone, as well as to keep a written documentation of the event.

 

A few myths about sexual harassment:

 

"Well, men can not control impulses…"

Men can control their actions. They are able to keep their hands and comments to themselves.

 

"But he didn’t touch me…"

Sexual harassment is not just physical contact. It can also be hints, proposals, stares and comments. It can also be indecent threats and extortion of a sexual basis.

 

"But he does not look like a harasser…"

It is not true that "potential harasser". A harasser can not be identified in advance by clothing, funny face, hairstyle, disturbing eyes. He looks just like you and me, with a little more aggressiveness and desire to control. There are harassers of all ages, all social statuses and all professions.

 

"If she didn’t like it, she could have said no…"

She can’t always say no. She may be surprised, embarrassed, ashamed or worried about her source of livelihood or professional promotion.

 

"Well, it's none of my business…"

If we keep ignoring this phenomenon as a society, it will certainly not go away. As long as we’re silent, we allow sexual harassment to happen, or we e can do something about it and create better and more pleasant workspaces and study environments for everyone.

 

The university’s sexual harassment procedure

Handling and preventing sexual harassment in higher education institutes