It’s not even a surprise anymore if your friend comes forward and talks about their experiences in college or school where they were held victim to unwanted advances by sexual predators;
In August 2011, a lecturer and controller examinations at Quaid-e-Azam University was forcefully retired on charges of sexual harassment filed by the female students. In 2014, the Federal Ombudsman directing LUMS fired a teacher from the law department for sexually harassing a student. Add to these the countless incidents of everyday harassment that never get reported or even discussed because we don’t want to “create a scene”. Harassment in schools and colleges is a real issue.
Sexual harassment is defined by the Alliance Against Sexual Harassment (AASHA) as “any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favors or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature”.
Verbal harassment or abuse including narration of sexual incidents, emailing or messaging or showing explicit sexual content in print or electronic form (SMS, Email, Screensavers, Posters, CDs etc)
Request for sexual favors (invitations for sex, requests for going out on dates)
Physical conduct (like touching, kissing, patting, pinching, physical assault like rape etc)
Sexually demeaning attitude (leering or staring at a person’s body)
The Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act (PHWW) is the law used in Pakistan against harassment in universities.
The act protects teachers against their colleague’s harassment but does not offer the same protection to the most vulnerable part of an educational institution: the students. In February of this year, the parliamentary panel rejected an amendment about bringing education institutions in the law’s ambit; arguing that university students already come under the workplace harassment law. Nevertheless, teachers and staff can be held accountable and even fired for their misconduct.
All the laws and articles like this could have been easily avoided if only we would have taught attackers NOT to harass,
We live in a society where mainstream media normalizes stalking and harassment. And it’s gonna take a long time for the change we want to see in the society to manifest. We could, in the meantime, work with what we’ve already got. Here’s some precautionary measures that you can take to stay on the safe side.
1. Learn to recognize the red flags
The attacker may come from the outskirts of your social circle, he may be someone you feel fairly comfortable around. An overly friendly professor, a senior, the canteen staff, or even the peons. Keep a lookout for all the red flags, an unwanted brush against your body or a hand on the shoulder or even an inappropriate text. Stay wary of these guys and set boundaries. Tell them clearly in a firm tone that you feel uncomfortable with their actions.
2. Avoid empty corridors, staircases, offices, lecture halls or libraries.
Even if you have to be somewhere alone, make sure your friends know where you’re gone. Keep them posted.
3. Trust your gut
When your gut tells you that a situation feels weird and inappropriate, listen. It’s NOT you overthinking. We have evolved to recognize the initial clues leading to assault. Get away from that place and move to a crowded one instead.
4. Keep a small weapon on you at all times
Pen knives and tasers can be bought at a cheap price in electronic stores. Keep them in an accessible place where you can easily draw it out, in jeans pockets, lab-coat pockets or the outer pockets of your bags. You can even keep a bottle of red chilli powder in your purse.
5. Yell. Make noise to distract the attacker
Most predators and attackers have planned the whole thing before hand. Disrupt their flow by introducing a glitch and thwarting their strategy. Yell “FIRE”, “AAG” or “BOMB” instead of shouting help or “Bachao“.
6. Know that you are not weak
Be vigilant of your surroundings. Harassers usually exploit the weak position of a student and prey on their vulnerability. Adopt a strong and aggressive, almost irritated body language. This will send a don’t-you-dare-fuck-with-me signal, and they would likely back off.
7. Know some basic self defense moves
Take some Karate classes or some self defense classes to help you deal better with unfortunate situations.
8. Remember the three critical strike zones: Eyes, Throat and Crotch
It doesn’t take a black belt to execute two or three moves. Just jab them hard enough in these three critical areas to buy some time and then run. Practice these moves beforehand with friends too.
9. Step in and help if you see someone becoming a target
If you notice someone feeling visibly uneasy in the presence of a dominating possible attacker, then step in. Start by throwing in small talk and prolong your stay. The attacker will likely walk away once he sees his strategy of isolating the victim is failing.
10. Speak out and report to the higher authorities
Please come forward and report. Don’t let the fear of “creating a scene” hold you back. If you decide to stay silent, another one of your colleagues may become victim to the same predator.
11. Remember this: you’re not the one at fault here.
You are the pure one. It’s insane and wild to think that you provoked it. It was not your shirt sleeves or your jeans or your dupatta. It was the horny asshole who ran out of porn to jerk off to. There is nothing you could have done to provoke an already fueled man. There is nothing you could’ve worn to change your attacker’s filthy mindset. No number of hijabs or burqas in the world would have been enough to ward the predator off.
Have you ever felt awkward around a senior or a professor too? Share your thoughts about harassment in universities in the comments below.