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Sexual harassment and what you need to know

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Critically acclaimed Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein has become infamously known as the man who allegedly harassed multiple well-known women.

According to an Oct. 10 article from The New York Times, some of these women include actresses Angelina Jolie, Ashley Judd, and Gwyneth Paltrow.

“I had a bad experience with Harvey Weinstein in my youth, and as a result, chose never to work with him again and warn others when they did,” Jolie said in the article. “This behavior toward women in any field, any country is unacceptable.”

Similar statements to describe Weinstein have been used by more than 30 other women who claim to be victims of harassment.

This news has caused some to wonder just what qualifies as sexual harassment, what can victims do to report their encounters, and what can bystanders do to prevent these acts from occurring?

Assistant professor of sociology Laura Atkins, who has studied gender, says sexual harassment includes a long list of experiences that range from the degradation of a woman’s work to gender specific terms such as “honey.”

Associate professor of sociology Heather Downs, who studied fields relating to gender and inequality, believes sexual harassment is difficult to stop because there are so many different actions and behaviors that make it up.

“An employer who says I don’t want to hire women because they have babies and leave is a form of sexual harassment,” Downs said. “Many people don’t think of that as harassment.”

Downs believes that some people are unaware that they’re participating in harassment. However, others may be aware, and intentionally trying to force people out of the workplace.

“People who experience sexual harassment at work typically have a lower job satisfaction, higher stress level at work, and high levels of anxiety and depression,” Downs said. “Obviously some people are much more likely to leave or sometimes you have an individual who can’t.”

In the case of Weinstein, Downs says he threatened several women that they’d never work in Hollywood again if they didn’t participate in a sexual act with him.

When asked why some victims choose not to come forward as soon as the incident occurs, Downs explained that many victims are afraid for their physical wellbeing, job, and reputation.

Though famous women such as Jolie have gained the courage to come forward and share their encounters with sexual harassment, some may wonder what a college student can do if they’re in a similar situation.

What policies does Jacksonville University have in place for faculty and staff or students who are victims of sexual misconduct?

“For faculty and staff, we have our Title IX policy, which prevents discrimination against gender and captures sexual misconduct,” said Kristie Gover, dean of students and senior vice president for student affairs.

“Our reporting procedure, which is guided by the Office for Civil Rights, suggests that if a student discloses sexual misconduct to a faculty or staff member they’re required to report to the Title IX coordinator or deputy coordinator,” Gover said.

One of JU’s deputy Title IX coordinators is Assistant Dean of Students DaVina Hamilton.

“A student who is reporting has three options,” Gover said. “They can fully report the sexual misconduct, and we will conduct an investigation, report, and not share the person’s name who assaulted them, or report the name and ask that we don’t pursue an investigation.”

There’s also an avenue for bystanders to intercede if they witness an incident of harassment.

“Green Dot, our bystander intervention project, refers to ‘Three Ds’: distract, direct, and delegate,” Gover said. “Distract can be as simple as saying, ‘Cops are here.’ Direct can be pulling a friend aside. Delegate is asking a friend to help you intervene.”

Gover said the university’s primary goal for victims of sexual misconduct is making sure students connect to appropriate resources.

Dome of those resources include the Student Counseling Center or the Women’s Center of Jacksonville, Gover said.

Atkins says she hopes the initiatives will help usher in a harassment-free school and work environment.

“People talking about actions that are sexual harassment helps create a culture at a workplace where everyone is equally valued, and no one will tolerate sexual harassment.”

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Sexual harassment and what you need to know