Sexual harassment awareness month has students speaking out

**Editor’s Note: This story contains experiences of harassment that some readers may find triggering. All names have been changed to protect the identities of the individuals used in this story. Discretion is advised.

The orange and white hallways fill up with students every day to scurry from one class to another. In that time, space becomes cramped and feels like walking through crashing waves. These are the halls that students like Jessi* no longer feel safe in due to the sexual harassment in Jessi’s high school life. 

“It has been happening on and off for about a year now,” Jessi said. “Most of the time it happens at school, but happened quite often when he worked with me. My sexuality has been a major reason why the harassment started, but my sexuality is something I can’t control.” 

Merriam Webster Dictionary defines sexual harassment as uninvited and unwelcome verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature. When it comes to sexual harassment, it can be difficult to know what is happening and if the situation is just a joke. Jessi had trouble coming forward for some time until they got the courage to talk to school staff about the issue. 

“[School staff] told me to ignore him and that he would stop, but he didn’t,” Jessi said. “They told me that they needed proof, so I got the harassment on video. Yet even with evidence, I got told I should leave him alone and the school decided to believe him over me.”

After trying to tell two other teachers about feeling like they were not getting any help about the harassment, Jessi no longer feels safe in the school. 

“I also told the principal and resource officer, and they told me to move on from the topic, but you can’t move on or ignore someone that you see every day,” Jessi said. “My thought of safety in school is gone. I don’t even like getting hugged without knowing who it is or if I say it’s okay because anyone can hurt you and not just boys, but girls can be predators, too.” 

The sexual harassment at school has followed Jessi to being beaten up after school. Jessi believes that all harassment jokes need to stop and the school staff needs to open their eyes to the issue when it comes to their view. 

Along with Jessi, Sally* feels staff does not do all they can to keep the student body safe from this topic.

“There’s really only a select few staff members I can trust,” Sally said. “I was being stalked for about three weeks. I told adults about the stalking, and they didn’t do much except give a slap on the wrist to them.”

A year has passed since the incident Sally went through but has dealt with comments made by her ex throughout the school year. 

“My ex had not said inappropriate things about me to my face, instead he tells all of his friends’ terrible things about me that make me extremely uncomfortable,” Sally said. 

Sally believes the rape and harassment jokes need to be stopped in the classroom. She feels as though teachers hear the comments being made but never get involved in the situations and let the problems go unchecked. 

“You hear the remarks made by people all the time and a lot of the times a teacher or staff member is around,” Sally said. “I even hear some kids make the comments about teachers they have. It seems to be a constant problem in the high school.” 

Although not a lot of physical harassment happens at school, Sally feels as though verbal harassment has been an occurrence on multiple occasions. 

“Throughout my time at Augusta, I have heard many people’s stories and done my best to keep them safe,” Sally said. 

Along with Sally, Sam* has not been able to walk around school without the feeling of having a target on their back. Sam has not had harassment happen while in school but sees their harasser every day at school.

“Honestly, I really liked this person, and I thought they actually liked me back,” Sam said. “We would hang out all of the time after school or if I didn’t have a college class. We would be together and they would instantly touch me all the time and wanted to do things all the time.”

Sam was blindsided by the thought that their harasser was more interested in their personality rather than their body.

“I was really at a low point in my life,” Sam said. “I was already dealing with being harassed by a student at another school, and they knew about it. Never did I think they would do the same thing, we were friends, I never saw them that way.”

Although Sam did not know they were being harassed, they did tell their harasser to stop and their voice was ignored.

“I told the harasser no multiple times when they were touching me, and they just didn’t care,” Sam said. “Whether it was in the car or their house, it just didn’t stop. I gave up fighting after they kept harassing me.” 

Sexual harassment is traumatizing to anyone who has had to deal with the topic, especially when going through high school. When a situation is going on either at school or out of school, students should feel safe enough to know the school staff would listen and help. Sam believes that even if they were to come forward, nothing would have been done. 

“At the end of the day, the staff is only here for one thing: a paycheck,” Sam said. “I feel that harassment has never been a conversation that the school has talked about or ever been stopped in the classrooms or hallways. It’s really upsetting knowing that there is more going on in the school, and I just hope the staff members would open their eyes more to what is going on around them.”