The Evanstonian

Sexual harassment survivors recount their experiences within ETHS

Trinity Collins & Ella Kanter, Features Editor & Public Relations Editor

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In the wake of the #MeToo Movement, ETHS student groups such as the Sexual Assault Awareness club take actions to fight sexual harassment and assault; however, students report that many acts of sexual harassment, including cat-calling, groping, or any other uncomfortable actions or comments, still occurs on the ETHS campus.

“As I was walking down the hallway, someone walking the opposite way grabbed my butt and squeezed it,” Jordan Williams* reports. “Following the incident, I heard chuckling by what seemed like the student’s friends who must have witnessed what just happened.”

According to Director of Safety Matthew Driscoll, after safety witnesses incidents like these, “they are expected to respond immediately and appropriately.” Once Safety interferes, they are supposed to check on the victim and bring students involved to the Deans’ Offices. Later, Safety would follow-up with the victim, providing them with proper resources to process their feeling (i.e. social workers or school counselors). Finally, a dean would process the incident and follow-up with the victim.

Regardless of if a student is or is not in immediate danger, students can always turn to a member of safety for help,” Driscoll says. “Safety would then bring the issue to the Deans or social workers for it to be processed.”

However, sexual harassment is not limited to the hallways where safety is present. It can — and does — occur in other school spaces such as classrooms, extracurricular activities and school sanctioned events.

Sexual harassment occurred after I disclosed my sexuality to one specific person. I was harassed by them and their friends for my sexuality. In class, outside of class in the hall, etc.,” senior Adrian Asensio-Arkin says. “I reported the harassment a few months later in a message to my AVID teacher asking them to switch classes. They kept asking why I hadn’t spoken up at first, or told anyone.”

Students can be subject to sexual harassment in various environments connected to the school. “My freshman and sophomore years at sporting events, I was a PomKit, and PomKits tend to be highly sexualized by males. Walking into the stands and going to hang out with my friends after games in my uniform prompted a lot of cat-calling, whistling and unwanted attention from guys that made me very uncomfortable,” senior Kendal Sohn explains. “I’m sure people noticed it, but no one ever really tried to stop it, because it seemed like such a casual, normal thing. Especially as a freshman, I thought: ‘oh they’re complimenting you, you should enjoy the compliments’.”

According to the 2016-2017 Disciplinary Report, prepared by administration yearly, 31 instances of sexual harassment/misconduct were reported during the 2016-2017 school year.

“During the lab [in chemistry class], one of the boys put their hand over my mouth and another one tried to grab my butt. They said they were just pretending to chloroform me,” recent graduate Riley Smith* says. “I tried to tell my dean how I had been harassed. Before I could finish, they said that I was the one who started the harassment in the first place. The next day in chemistry, I told my teacher what happened and all they did was change the seating.”  

Currently, according to the ETHS Board Policy Manual, after a student has reported an instance of sexual harassment, the grade level Dean or Associate Principal will conduct an investigation on the alleged perpetrator and situation. If the perpetrator is determined to have engaged in prohibited conduct, they will be disciplined by suspension, expulsion or another punishment deemed fit by the ETHS behavioral policy.

In recent years, ETHS has begun to provide workshops during Sexual Assault Awareness Week yearly as an optional educational opportunity. In addition, Associate Principal of Educational Services Keith Robinson says that this past summer, a cohort of community members, ETHS staff members, and ETHS parents worked to update the language in the sexual harassment policy.  

Some students believe that ETHS is making the proper strides to address rape culture and sexual harassment. “What they [ETHS] is doing now with the sexual assault activism is beneficial. Seeing students wearing the T-shirts and attending the workshops is hopeful and inspiring. I hope that in the future sexual assault awareness and activism will become even more of a success,” senior Rachel Rudolph says.
Still, some attribute sexual harassment at ETHS to a larger societal problem: “I think it’s the [harasser’s] responsibility, as opposed to the school. While the school can step up, I think it’s fully the harasser’s fault. I can’t really imagine what else ETHS might do to stop this [harassment], I think it’s more of a societal problem than an ETHS problem,” Alex Martin* says.

Students report that their experiences with sexual harassment add to their discomfort and feeling of degradation, yet ETHS is committed to creating a safe and welcoming environment for all who enter the campus. As the voices of the sexually assaulted, harassed and objectified grow louder throughout the nation, ETHS continues to emphasize their ‘no tolerance’ policy for sexual harassment and misconduct.

*Name changed to protect anonymity.

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Sexual harassment survivors recount their experiences within ETHS