(Read part 1 here)
Kelena decided to take matters into her hands and do something about the frequent harassment, not just for herself but to clear the whole system. Kelena said to herself: 'I know it is not going to be an easy fight or even happen quickly but I am going to do it. I plan on getting actual evidence that can nail any of these men that first falls prey to my prank.’
I finally opened up to my friends and behold they all had their individual stories and a few had already given into the evil desires of the lecturers and felt they could not stop or they would face grave consequences. A few of us decided that we would lure these lecturers to the same location (a hotel found for us by Natalie's boyfriend) on the same day. We also had a group of boys (friends of ours) in the restroom filming the process and recording the conversations. The girls (I, Natalie and a friend) finally convinced the lecturers that we were ready to do their biddings.
So that afternoon we made sure they arrived separately in order to avoid them suspecting any activity. It happened and as they got into the room the girls made sure they initiated conversations that were implicating enough. The lecturers of course fell for it and just about when they had gotten undressed, ready for action, the boys burst out and caught it on camera, took pictures and recorded videos.
I got an NGO that helps victims like me to assist with the next action! Well, to cut a long story short, the lecturers, reputable professors and a doctor were disgracefully sacked. Sexual harassment will not happen in a long time in that university that is for sure.
All these actions and the process cost Kelena and Natalie an extra year but they were not bothered because they were excited that they had left the university with their dignity intact. But this is the story of one girl - this is one scenario. What about the people who are even more victimised when they try to speak out and the ones that have given in to these desires and still fail?
Let us look at the possible effects sexual harassments have on people like Kelena. Do not forget the process of Kelena's sexual harassment started since her first week in the university. She had been prone to a number of psychological effects ranging from frustration, anxiety, fear to feeling irritated when advances are made to her from even ‘normal’ people. She may have feared retaliation and victim-blaming. The other effects she may have experienced are:
- Being objectified and humiliated by scrutiny and gossip.
- Defamation of character and tainted reputation.
- Loss of focus.
- Becoming publicly sexualised.
Kelena’s life came under public scrutiny - the victim became the accused. What she wore, her lifestyle and private life came under attack. But this hardly happens to the perpetrator of the crime whilst anxiety, frustration, depression, sleeplessness and/or nightmares, difficulty concentrating, headaches, fatigue, shame and guilt, loss of self esteem, isolation, suicidal thoughts and attempts become the order of the day for the victims.
These and more are the aftermath of what Kelena and victims like her could suffer in the long run.
Let us consider the consequences of this case on Kelena's university
The school suffers disruption in its usual activity and there is a reduced productivity in the school and the students will lack motivation to learn.
Diminished reputation that may impair efforts to attract, recruit and retain students, faculty and staff.
A lot of time would be spent by the university staff to respond to complaints investigators and lawyers.
The university will spend great amounts of money on back pay, attorney fees, and also could lose financial benefits. The university might also have to pay for compensatory and punitive damages.
But there is the other side of the coin
Sexual harassment in universities is mostly viewed from the randy male lecturers’ angle, little is spoken of female students deliberately seducing male lecturers mainly for better grades. Apart from the direct advances, lecturers also complain that they feel harassed when females walk into their office in provocative dresses that show off cleavages and other sensitive body parts.
Sexual harassment always produces a ripple effect whenever it occurs. Individuals directly involved are affected by the emotional, physical and often financial repercussions of sexual harassment and the ripple effects extend to others too – co-workers, classmates, friends and family members can also be hurt.
These tips can help make it stop.
JUST SAY STOP!If you can, tell the person to stop. State clearly and firmly that you want a particular behaviour to cease. This is not a time to be polite or vague. Consider the possibility that the harasser may not realise that a particular behaviour is offensive.
Get information and support. If you feel you cannot speak up, talk with the schools counseling unit for further help and guidance. These people can provide support and advice about the schools policy and procedures, and can help to resolve the problem.
Write to the harasser. This can often succeed in stopping sexual harassment. Include a factual account of the offending behavior, describe how you felt about it, and state simply that you want that particular behavior to stop. Keep the letter polite, low-key and factual.
If the message is to work, it must be a private communication between the persons involved, so don't send a copy to anyone else, but be sure to keep a copy for yourself. Typically, you won't have a response to your letter, but the troubling behaviour will stop right away. Keep records or a journal and save any letters, e-mail, or notes you have about the situation if the harassment persists. Record dates, places, times, witnesses and the nature of the harassment—what was said when, and how you responded.
We all have a collective responsibility to provide a work and learning environment free of sexual harassment, the university's leaders must be proactive in preventing sexual harassment and responding in a timely and effective manner to allegations of sexual harassment. Action taken by individuals in notable positions of authority such as deans, human rights activists even Vice Chancellors is pivotal to the determination of legal liability when law suits or complaints are filed with federal or state enforcement agencies.
This piece aims to shed light on this ignored crime going on in campuses around the world. It demoralises women and poses a threat on their dignity. The story about Kelena is a story that’s true and relatable for many Nigerian undergraduates. Stop Sexual Harassment in Universities! Spread the word!
By Chidera Okehi.