A school should be a safe space to learn and not a battlefield against sexual harassment. Taylorian, Bernice Lee writes how we can make school a safer place for all.
This article consists of topics revolving around rape and sexual violence. Please read at your own discretion.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’d probably have noticed the #MakeSchoolASaferPlace trend. It started when a Malaysian teenager, posted a video on TikTok, voicing out her discomfort when her male teacher allegedly joked about rape during class, which went viral.
According to her, the teacher said, “If you want to rape someone, don’t rape those under 18, rape those above 18.” He had also allegedly said, “If boys become victims of rape, it will not go reported because it feels ‘sedap’ to them.” After speaking to her school counsellor about the incident, she was given a half-hearted apology on behalf of the teacher and instead was told that she was being overly emotional because she was a girl.
This induced her to start a movement on social media, #MakeSchoolASaferPlace, which advocates to make schools a safer learning space and encourages other students to come forward with unpleasant experiences they have gone through in school.
The fact that these actions are normalised in classrooms is a problem. A problem that shouldn’t even be on school grounds. Testimonials of personal experiences and solid evidences can be seen all over the internet under #MakeSchoolASaferPlace. Though we can give some of these shared experiences the benefit of the doubt, the fact that the large numbers of shared experiences itself speaks volumes.
Exhibit A: An Instagram account that allows victims to speak up. This account was first created back on April 27th, and as of today (25/5/2021), there’s already up to 30 posts sharing their own experiences with sexual harassment in school. In less than two weeks, over 200 posts were made, and they’re still ongoing. Why is it that so many people fear to address this topic until the girl who went viral on TikTok kickstarted the movement? Why is it that students, teenagers, minors have to undergo these unpleasant situations against their consent? No one should have to experience feeling violated by someone else’s words in a place that should be safe for education.
Rape culture is undeniably prevalent in society today, research shows that nearly 1 in 5 women have experienced completed or attempted rape during their lifetime. It doesn’t come as a shock that many teenage girls face different forms of sexual harassment on a regular basis. The fact that a simple hashtag drove so many people to speak out, proves that it is a problem that we choose not to confront, and now we finally are confronting it. Why do we allow this to happen? A school should be a safe space for children to study and pursue knowledge, instead of having to constantly combat inappropriate comments or actions.
That brings us into the picture. Be it school, college, or university, we’re here to pursue our education, and it’s up to all of us to create a safe space to learn. Here’s what we can do to make our university a safer place:
#1. Educate ourselves
We must educate ourselves on rape culture, sexual harassment, boundaries, and consent. Regardless of your gender, inform yourself on this subject. (ie. Sexual jokes can be considered harassment if the other party feels uncomfortable.)
#2. Speak up; otherwise, find help.
If you’d like a safe space to speak up, go to @savetheschoolsmy. If you don’t feel like it, we always have Taylor’s Counsellors!
#3. Do not dismiss others
Do not dismiss nor diminish anyone’s experience, especially if they’re your friend. Just because they’ve experienced sexual harassment in any form and are willing to speak up doesn’t make them any less feminine or masculine.
#4. Stand up for each other
If you witness someone being sexually harassed, stand up for others whenever someone makes an inappropriate comment. Don’t just stand by and watch. You could save someone.
#5. Take victims seriously
School and legal authorities should take students seriously should they choose to report their encounter.
#6. Play your part
Play your part in supporting, before asking others to play theirs. All will soon follow suit.
Nobody should have to go through such painful experiences. It’s undeniable that we feel frustrated for not being able to truly serve these victims justice, but we should all do what we can. Everything starts from somewhere, together we are stronger.
Bernice Lee is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Mass Communication (HONS) at Taylor's University Lakeside Campus. She is also a hunter of the creative arts, aiming her arrow at dance, handicraft, fashion and anything that speaks to her soul.
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