May 12, 2021
Thompson dubbed sexual harassment “dehumanizing” to the point where it exceeds disrespect and is the “opposite of love, equality and fairness.”
Fallon said the dehumanizing aspect of sexual harassment plants a seed in the minds of victims which then grows into larger issues that present numerous challenges.
“Being objectified at such a young age can have such detrimental impacts on you, especially when you’re still developing,” Fallon said. “It could impact your self-esteem, how you think of yourself, your future relationships and it can make you distrust others.”
Laeticia Perrin (’23) said harassment instills distressing emotions and prompts victims to self-blame.
“Boys don’t realize that we’re ashamed of it,” Perrin said. “It makes us feel so bad about ourselves, and we think something is wrong with us instead of questioning men around us.”
Similarly, Colette said sexual harassment experiences stay with the victim, and even when they may feel comfortable enough to come forward, others dismiss their experiences off-hand. For Colette, she said she continually re-lived the moment and criticized her own response.
“There’s also a lot of victim-blaming,” Colette said. “People often just say, ‘Well, it’s your fault’ and ‘You let that happen to you.’ Especially after my really bad experience, thoughts kept running through my head about what I would have done, but when it happens to you in the moment you’re really just shocked and don’t know what to do.”
Fallon said the common reactions to those coming forward with their experiences are disappointing and deter other women from sharing their stories.
“It is just so sad to see all of these girls go through these things and then just be utterly dismissed and not cared about, like they are literal trash and that everything will be forgotten in like two or three days,” Fallon said.
On the other hand, Thompson acknowledged that one of the perversities around sexual harassment is that those who belong to the 3% of women in the U.K. that have not yet experienced harassment may question their value and feel unworthy in the male gaze.
“They might think, ‘What’s wrong with me if I’m not getting sexually harassed?’ and ‘Am I not attractive enough?’” Thompson said. “It’s so twisted, but it just reflects the society we live in. You really can’t win.”
Moreover, Olsher said women and people from other oppressed communities, such as members of the LGBTQ+ community and people of color, suffer the impact of sexual harassment on a much greater scale.
“From what I understand as someone who comes from marginalized communities, there’s a difference between when an oppressed group punches back at an oppressive group than when an oppressive group punches an oppressed group,” Olsher said.
Yurin said the prominence of sexual harassment pushes safety to the forefront of women’s minds to the point where girls “think about it and deal with it on an everyday basis when we’re out alone.”
Ultimately, Fallon said sexual harassment is an issue entrenched in our society and an unacceptable yet painful reality for most women across the globe.
“No one should have to be scared to walk outside of their house in fear of getting harassed on the street,” Fallon said. “No one should feel extremely unsafe when they leave their house – period. Like, who knows? Are they going to follow you home? Are they going to assault you? Are they going to kill you? No one should have to deal with that ever, let alone on a daily basis.”