Cover story on Sexual Harassment- Part 2

(Part 2 of a 3-part series in our online publication)

Consent

Obtaining and giving consent should always be the first step while taking part in any sexual activity with another person. When one indulges in sexual activity without consent at any degree, it is called sexual assault. Giving consent exactly means to agree to participate in sexual activities with someone else. One must remember that consent must be freely given while fully informed about the sexual activity that a person wishes to indulge in, and must always be in the form of a specific answer, which can be withdrawn at anytime during the course of the activity as well as the relationship.

Consent must be given at each step in a relationship– 94.8% Female say Yes, 87.3% Male say Yes.

Similarly, if a person has consented to a particular type of sexual activity, it does not mean that they have consented to all of them. A significant majority of the surveyees agreed with this, with the male (94.9%) and female (94.8%) percentages being roughly the same for this question.

If a person doesn’t physically resist sex, they have not given consent– 91.3% Female say Yes, 84.3% Male say Yes.

Consent is given only when it is a definitive ‘yes’ to a specific activity. This means that not resisting sexual advances cannot be considered as consent. The ‘yes means yes’ approach, developed by a group of women at Antioch College in 1991, puts this more succinctly. Once again, a majority of males and females agreed with this.

Consent obtained through coercion or repeated pursuing is invalid– 96.5% Female say Yes, 90.0% Male say Yes.

It is important to note that consent should be given freely by the person before sex when they are neither pressured nor manipulated nor under the influence of drugs, alcohol or any other narcotics. In our survey, when questioned on what the surveyee thought about giving consent, a majority of both males and females answered that consent obtained through coercion or repeated pursuit is invalid.

Once consent has been given, it can be withdrawn– 93.9% Female say Yes, 95.1% Male say Yes.

Another aspect of giving consent is that anyone can change their minds about the consent anytime without the pressure to give any reason. Again, the majority of both male (95.1%) and female (93.9%) surveyees agreed with this.

If a person gives mixed signals, it can sometimes mean consent– 88.6% Female say No, 82.1% Male say No.

When a person is giving off mixed signals, one should assume that they have not received consent and desist from going forward with the sexual activity. Most of the surveyees agreed that giving off mixed signals does not imply consent, with the percentage of men agreeing being 82.1% and that of women being 88.6%.

A majority of the survey takers have a good idea of what consent means, and are aware that all sexual activities must be consensual. However, the size of the minority who have erroneous ideas of consent is still much higher than it should be. This trend seems to be a bit higher in males than in females, which shows that the experiences that women have had with sex and consent have been different from those of men. It is also to be noted that men outnumbered women among the surveyees. Thus, the public perception of consent collected through this survey shows that more sex education is still required to make people realize the various factors that come into play while giving consent such as power dynamics, inebriation, social pressures and expectations of society.

Incidents

We had asked students in the study whether they had been subject to the following forms of predatory behaviour. The following set of infographics cover these scenarios with respect to the male and female survey takers.

Campus Incidents

The following section reported a total of 134 responses comprising of survey takers who said they had experienced one or more of the following incidents:

  • repeatedly being asked out,
  • non-verbal, non-physical harassment,
  • verbal sexual harassment,
  • repeatedly stalked by someone,
  • cyber-stalked,
  • having an abusive partner in a relationship,
  • blackmailed or forced into being physically intimate, or
  • sexually harassed or sexual violence.

When asked who the perpetrator was, the most common survey answer was a fellow student. Other responses from the survey include outsider, security official or ex-partner. According to RAINN, a US based non-profit organization, in most cases of sexual harassment the offender is someone known to the victim.

When asked what effect the incident had on them, most (75.2%) responded that they became wary or suspicious of people, and that they became paranoid. Additionally, 43.4% has said that they felt anxiety or depression. Some said that they changed their route to avoid the location of the incident, while some said that they decided to not show up or quit the group or friend circle that they shared with the perpetrator.

How satisfied were you with their handling of the complaint?

Some survey takers responded that they felt discontent with how the complaint was handled, stating that the punishment was not severe enough and the perpetrators “need a change of mindset, not simply a punishment.”

A majority – 81% said that they chose not to complain. When asked for the reason they said they didn’t think it was serious enough to report. Most victims brush off the incidents as they consider them “minor”, but anything that constitutes sexual harassment can be reported if a victim feels the need to complain. Another 35.8% of the surveyees said that they wanted to forget that the event had happened. Such incidents tends to take a toll on the victim’s mental health, hence talking about and registering a complaint might not seem viable to the victim.

Safety on campus

Do you feel safe on campus? 

A majority – 72.4% answered “yes” to this question, however, only 45.5% of the total female survey takers responded “yes” while 89% of male responded “yes”. 37% of female survey takers (86 out of 234) said they sometimes feel unsafe on campus. A very small fraction of male survey takers answered “sometimes” or “no”.

If your previous answer was no or sometimes, where do you feel unsafe?

When responding to this question, however, the answers were skewed as a follow up to the previous. Only 58.9% continued by saying that they feel safe, and the survey takers possibly differing in opinion from “yes” to “sometimes” when faced with options of locations. 155 respondents said that they found the roads on campus to be unsafe at times, other responses included SAC, SC and some mentioned feeling more unsafe during fests. 

If you do not feel safe on campus, what do you think needs to be done to improve safety?

“…functional lights and cameras on all roads and corners.”

A frequent response we received was to make the campus better lit especially down commonly used roads like College Avenue and the SC road. The lack of well-lit spaces could be a reason why respondents found roads to feel not safe. Another common suggestion was to install CCTVs in public spaces around campus. 

“Awareness about what constitutes sexual harassment…”

The most common suggestion was for awareness programs on safety, sexual harassment and addressing varying views and perceptions on sex and gender. In the past, such programs have been included in orientation for first years, however several universities around the world have annual mandatory course/sessions on campus safety and awareness on who to complain to, etc. Most professional work environments also have such courses.

“Making sure the security near the main gate is tight. Security shouldn’t allow anyone without a proper ID card inside the campus.”

Another prevalent concern was regarding the campus being open as it functions as a gateway to a few nearby villages. While a few respondents suggested issuing proper ID cards to the public that might access the entrance, some also suggested the implementation of rigorous checks at night.

Stay tuned for the conclusion.

Part 1: https://feedsnitt.com/2020/06/02/cover-story-on-sexual-harassment-part-1/

Part 3: https://feedsnitt.com/2020/08/03/cover-story-on-sexual-harassment-part-3/

To read our special issue: https://issuu.com/feeds.nitt/docs/special_issue

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The official media house of NIT Trichy.

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