As a female living on the University of Maine campus, I have been exposed to many of the lectures and much of the literature concerning safety and the prevention of sexual assault that young co-eds are subjected to when they go away to school. Even if a person wished to avoid hearing all these things, it’s nearly impossible. Recently, Safe Campus Project posted several fliers around campus in order to raise awareness of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Right away, however, something about these fliers struck me as wrong.
Anyone else who has seen these fliers may have noticed the same thing. They have a “female” symbol on top and are flanked down each side with purple and green ribbons. While some fliers did have good information about how to avoid sexual harassment or dangerous situations that might encourage it, the demographic was all wrong.
All of the fliers I found around campus were directed towards women. They all included language such as “Tell her,” “Respect her.” or “Encourage her.” There was not a single pronoun that was either ambiguous or male-oriented. I realize, of course, that many believe that men cannot be raped for simple biological reasons, and that opinion varies from individual to individual. I will not try to argue for or against it here, but there are other reasons why this upsets me.
While many believe men cannot be legitimately raped, they can be sexually harassed, especially in the workplace and that, according to the UMaine Policy on Relationship Abuse and the Workplace, is prohibited. Men can be harassed and teased by bosses, professors or coworkers just as easily as women can, yet the fliers posted by Campus Safety Project do not reflect that. One flier even went so far as to describe the typical type of male that women should be wary of – yet we hear constantly about female teachers who sleep with their male students. That alone should be proof enough that sexual harassment against men does exist in at least one form, if not more.
Safe Campus Project reported that there are 226 sexual assaults at UMaine every year, according to estimates of the Department of Justice. We don’t know how many of those are men, but it’s probably safe to assume that for every 226 women that are sexually attacked or harassed, there’s at least one man who suffers the same. Excluding men from public announcements about sexual harassment makes it more difficult for men to come foreward with their testimonies, and of course makes the idea of men being sexually harassed even more alien than it already is.
The Safe Campus Project has agreed. Even though their recently posted fliers may not have included all victims, their services are available for anyone who needs them, regardless of gender. Victims are encouraged to report crimes or simply to get support that they might need. We here at UMaine need to send a message that no type of sexual harassment against anyone will be tolerated, it is never the victim’s fault – be it a man or a woman – and it is never OK.
Megan Neff is a second-year journalism major.