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Here’s what milspouses can do to fight sexual harassment in our community
(Photo: U.S. Air Force, Senior Airman Elizabeth Baker)

By Julie Provost

Sexual harassment is everywhere. As a woman, I have experienced it, and you probably have, too. Sexual harassment can happen in public, with someone you know, and in the workplace. It’s an issue in our military communities, including our online spaces.

With the Marines United scandal in the news, we have seen what can happen when sexual harassment hits our communities in ways we couldn’t have imagined before. As military spouses, we can feel lost and scared that everything is falling apart. However, we have to stay strong and know that we can fight sexual harassment in our community. We don’t have to be okay with it, and we can make changes for the better.

What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment can present itself in different ways. Here are some examples:

  • Making sexual jokes, gestures, remarks and/or innuendos
  • Making comments about an individual’s body, clothes, sexual behavior, or appearance
  • Spreading sexual rumors about an individual
  • Continued unwanted requests for social dates or sexual activity
  • Posting inappropriate sexual remarks or photos of a person on social media sites, text messages, or other digital communications.
  • Displaying sexual or pornographic photos in a workplace
  • Making a sexually offensive expression
  • Unwanted touching
  • Blocking or cornering someone in a sexual way

Call it out

One way to fight sexual harassment in our communities is to call the harassment out when we see it. If someone is harassing you, tell them to stop or say something such as, “Your comments are not okay.” Use your judgment; if you do not feel safe, engaging the person further might not be the best idea. Get away instead.

Intervene

If the sexual harassment is being done to someone else, you can intervene. If you witness an incident, let the victim and aggressor know you see what is going on and you are not okay with it. The more our community works together to call out sexual harassment, the more people will stop and change their behavior. If we ignore this when we see harassment happening, we are just perpetuating the problem.

If you see sexual harassment online, put a stop to that as well as you can. Do not forward photos or messages that are inappropriate. Report websites and Facebook groups that are doing so. Call people out if they talk about sexually harassing people on the internet. The online world makes sexual harassment even easier, but we don’t have to put up with it.

Share our stories

Sharing what has happened to us in the past can help those in the future. Whether you talk about how you got catcalled on a run, when your boss wouldn’t stop touching your shoulders, or when a co-worker kept asking you about your sexual history, the more stories we hear, the more we can see what is going on, and the more likely we all are to help prevent it. Whenever anyone shares a story, it lets others know that “this happened to me,” the stories become real and we start to see evidence of a problem that needs to be addressed.

Keep records

If sexual harassment is happening to you or your children, maintain records. Having this information is important when you report the harassment. Even if you are not sure if someone has crossed a line, maintaining a record can help identify patterns in behavior.

Report it

If the incident happened in public and you feel like you should, call the police and report the incident. Although sometimes that person will not get in trouble for one incident, if they have a history of harassment, they might. You never know if this is the first time someone has done something like this.

If you are a civilian employee working on base and the harassment happens in your workplace, you can report this to the EEO. If you work for a civilian company, there should be a protocol for who to contact.

If you are a member of the military, contact your chain of command.

Reporting these behaviors will make for a safer community. The claims can be investigated, and people of power who are doing this can be removed.

Changes in schools

Title IX Education Amendments Act of 1972 is federal law. It states that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

This applies to public schools, but it does not apply to DoDEA schools and can cause quite an issue if there is a case of sexual harassment. This is a major problem as seen in the case of Susan Roeder’s daughter in 2013. If we as a community can work towards changes in schools, we can make life safer for all military community members, including our children.

Resources:

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

SHARP: Sexual Harassment/Assault Response & Prevention

Department of the Navy Office of Inspector General


DOD Safe Hotline

Military sexual violence information

Julie Provost is an associate editor at Military One Click and a National Guard spouse. She can be reached at julie@militaryoneclick.com.

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