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Post Secondary Students Need Non-Political Training about Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

By Asha Jeejeebhoy-Swalwell

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace (SHIW) can occur in any learning institution or workplace. Recent studies reflect that professional healthcare students are frequently exposed to sexual harassment during their studies and afterward. What are the post-secondary educational institutions they are attending doing to address this issue?

Dentistry schools have seen a surge in sexual harassment within Brazil. A recent study reflects that 15% of students at the Araçatuba Dental School in São Paulo State University (UNESP), Brazil, have reported being sexually harassed by patients, relatives of patients, and professors. As much as 25% of the school population had reported visually witnessing sexual harassment. The dental students reported not feeling safe and are unsure about how to react to SHIW due to a lack of education and support from the educational institution.

What types of education and support can be implemented so that students who have experienced and witnessed SHIW don’t feel alone and know where to seek help? Sexual harassment surrounding the #MeToo movement, for instance, has been dramatically politicized within academic institutions and by society at large. This creates more stigma around the issue of SHIW leaving students more susceptible to sexual harassment and less likely to report or seek help if they experience SHIW.

Ideally post-secondary institutions should take and educational approach to SHIW that is non-politically framed and inclusive. A good example of this is the University of Waterloo's non-politicized Sexual Violence Awareness training which is available to any faculty member, students, and staff members. The training provides resources on how and where to seek help if one experiences SHIW on campus. This type of training should be required, or at the least highly encouraged, for anyone working for or attending post secondary institutions. This would facilitate survivors and bystanders of SHIW on campus to feel less isolated and encourage reporting of sexual harassment, which in turn would likely reduce its prevalence.

The author, Asha Jeejeebhoy-Swalwell is a third-year Honours Bachelor of Social Work Student studying at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. She is currently doing her placement with the Community Legal Clinic of Brant, Haldimand, and Norfolk counties. Her academic interests include ethics, housing/poverty, law, mental health & disability studies, and issues surrounding sexual harassment and violence. She also enjoys creating poetry and art in her spare time.

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