University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Sexual Harassment and Abuse
Based on this week’s reading, what are the delimiting factors which determine whether or not an individual is experiencing sexual harassment or sexual abuse? In your opinion, how prevalent are these offenses and what is an appropriate response? Unfortunately in our society, we have been gradually increasing sexual liberties in the ways we dress, talk, and act in any and every public venue. This sexual liberation from both genders has helped to blur the boundaries of sexual harassment. Balswick and Balswick define sexual harassment as “any form of unsolicited language or touching containing sexual overtones.
It includes sexual jokes, suggestive talk and unsolicited physical advances (Balswick and Balswick, 2008). ” Based on that definition and what I know of many work places, especially hospitals, outsiders could perceive that sexual harassment is alive and well on any given day. Though many of those sharing sexual jokes and innuendos would adamantly deny that they were harassing anyone, they could not deny that they shared unsolicited material. They chose to verbally pass along what they found to be funny from their experiences or mind, while simultaneously failing to consider how the information may be received and perceived by those listening.
Generally, those that object are thought to be sensitive people and are excluded from future exposure. Most institutions and work places today have established grievance policies for anyone that perceives they are experiencing sexual harassment. The boundaries of sexual abuse are clearer than the boundaries of sexual harassment. Sexual abuse is more profound, affords greater injury to the victim, and carries stiffer consequences for the perpetrator. Balswick and Balswick define sexual abuse as “a sexual act imposed on a child or person who lacks emotional, maturational, and or cognitive development (Balswick and Balswick, 2008.
Balswick and Balswick use the terms sexual abuser and sex offender interchangeably. Thus, for me the scope of the definition of sexual abuse should be broadened. Sex offenders exist that rape and sexually abuse women who are not lacking emotionally, maturationally, or in cognitive development. They were merely overpowered or feared for their lives, yet, the abuse they suffered was strictly sexual in nature. Victims of sexual abuse often carry the weighted burdens of shame and unwarranted guilt in addition to numerous other negative emotions, hurts, feelings of betrayal and abandonment, physical trauma, and more.
Though I believe more people report their experiences today than perhaps earlier decades, I believe that many never report; perhaps because of the time that has elapsed between the abuse and the time they feel safe enough to report; perhaps they feel they would heap on more personal shame by exposing a family member or that now their spouse and children would be hurt by the revelation; perhaps there are innumerable personal reasons for failing to report past abuses and hurts and maybe for the individual they are better dealt with in private counseling even if it negatively impacts our statistics.
I believe our responsibility should be guided by helping the injured rather than punishment or seeking vengeance against the perpetrator. I am reminded of God’s Word to us in Psalm 82, “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked (NIV). In Ephesians 4 Paul includes some instructions for living as Christians, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you (NIV). ” Finally, Paul reminds us in Romans of Jesus instruction, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. ’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good(NIV). ”