Photo by Shane Maryott

For one bizarre reason or another, people in our community seem to think that sexual harassment and assault must be initiated by the victim.

“They’re too sexy.”

“They dress immodestly.”

“They were asking for it.”

Sometimes people even go so far as to accuse the victim of lying or being overdramatic.

“That person couldn’t have done something that awful – they’re lying.”

“People don’t just go around doing that stuff.”

But these ideas are false and the attitudes behind them are unkind and unjustified. Victims shouldn’t be put through additional hurt or suffering after experiencing something so damaging.

Harassment and assault do not happen because the victim has seduced the offender and created an overwhelming sexual desire for them; these things happen because the offender feels power and control in such a situation.

What can be done about these attitudes? The solution is presented in the form of self-defense, psychology and relationship studies. Essentially, the answer is to preemptively educate the victim.

It’s important that both women and men understand that sexual harassment does not need to be tolerated. Many modern workplaces have developed mandatory sexual harassment seminars, which define the term sexual harassment, discourage it and explain consequences of breaching that statute. These often require some form of acknowledgment that the employee understands what was presented.

Most large employers have a mandatory training all faculty and staff are required to do online. It generally involves a video that goes over sexual harassment laws, accompanied by a quiz that tests the knowledge of the taker. Only once they have scored above a specific score can they move on and complete the training.

One may be skeptical of how effective such a disengaged training can be, but it has made awareness more widespread.

Jennifer Reynolds, assistant to the director of human resources, said about UVU’s programs, “The main reason for going to [an online training] was to reach all the employees and to make them all accountable. Because when they pass the test, they’re saying they understand what the laws are … Before it was just a video they could tune out.”

Although widespread workplace training is good, perhaps the training should start before one enters the workplace.

A good start may be a sexual harassment and assault training that accompanies middle school sex education classes.

Young girls especially need to realize what is acceptable and what is not. Men need to realize that they have their own rights. Both need to know that victims are not perpetrators to their own harassments or assaults; they are victims.

College harassment and assault cases may decrease if the victims are trained way beforehand.

According to the University of Michigan’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center website, “Sixty-two percent of female college students report having been sexually harassed at their university, with 80 percent of the reported harassment being peer-to-peer.”

Following suit, sexual assault rates on college campuses are also high.

University of Michigan stats show that “over a five-year stay, a college woman’s risk of experiencing a sexual assault or attempted sexual assault is between 1 in 5 and 1 in 4.”

Surprisingly, a recognizable amount of men are victims.

The University of Michigan also record that “nine percent of all rape victims outside of criminal institutions are men.”

Being educated about inappropriate sexual advances or the tragic event of sexual assault may prevent you from becoming a victim. Understanding the psychology behind such attacks can help you support victims.