An incredibly difficult and uncomfortable experience that one might have to endure in their life.
It might include lewd and unwanted sexual behaviour that could be aggressive, obvious staring, inappropriate sexual comments, following or touching without consent.
Sexual harassment can also include pressuring another into a sexual relationship that they do not want.
Sexual harassment most commonly takes places on the street, in the workplace and on public transport. It might involve walking down the street where one man after another makes a lewd or inappropriate comment or gesture. It might be a man on a bus who sits just a little bit too close or stares for just a little bit too long. It might be going to work and having to listen to sexually inappropriate comments and having to endure sexually inappropriate behaviour.
These are problems that can be found throughout the world and throughout the world they are problems that run rife.
Part of the problem with sexual harassment is how accepted it is. Far too often, sexual harassment is dismissed as if it’s no big deal, as if it’s something that’s fun or enjoyable that is a male’s privilege and right to do. Women are just expected to accept their place as sexual objects and are expected to be quiet about it. For the women who do complain about sexual harassment they are often dismissed as ‘crazy’ or ‘overreacting.’
It’s as if women are just expected to deal with the insult of being treated as objects that are there to be taunted and objectified for fun.
However, recently something has happened that has caused a shift. The Harvey Weinstein scandal in the US brought to light just how serious this problem of sexual harassment and assault is and showed it that this is a problem that goes beyond class and social status as even the famous and the wealthy can be targeted by this disgusting and revolting behaviour.
Though what has been the most significant about the Harvey Weinstein scandal is what has followed.
Rather than attacking and dismissing women who have made claims of sexual harassment and assault, we instead have seen sexual harassers being very publicly criticised and rejected.
We have seen the media speaking of such men with disgust and celebrities coming out in droves to condemn sexual misconduct and assault. We have watched as man after man has been kicked out of his job for sexual harassment and we have watched as members of the general public have come out to criticise these men.
And most significantly, we have seen thousands and thousands of women come out to speak up about their own experiences of sexual harassment and assault. And we are hearing them say that they want it to stop.
This is exactly what needs to happen.
This shift is sending a much needed and incredibly powerful message. It is sending a message that sexual harassment is a big deal and that women are no longer going to accept it.
It is sending a message that if you have been sexually harassed or assaulted then you are not alone and that there are many, many people around the world who want this very bad behaviour to end.
It is also sending a very powerful message to men and boys that no matter how high you up are, no matter how powerful you are, if you sexually harass or assault a woman, you will be brought down. It is sending a message that no longer will this kind of behaviour be accepted and tolerated.
And this is the message that we now need to keep pushing.
We must not lose steam on this effort and we must ensure that we stay on this trajectory of demanding better behaviour from men and boys.
We need to use this moment as a moment of power, where women and girls everywhere stand up for themselves and demand that around the world, no matter where you come from or who you are, that it is completely unacceptable to treat a woman, or anyone, in a degrading or humiliating way.
So women and girls everywhere keep speaking up for your rights, keep speaking out against sexual harassment and keep demanding your right to be treated well and with the dignity that you deserve.
That is your right.