Transgender bathroom ruling leads to sexual harassment concerns

College students, especially women and individuals in the LGBT community, are becoming increasingly insecure about being protected from sexual misconduct due to one of President Trump’s latest rulings.

In February of this year, President Trump ruled that it’s up to the states to decide regarding Title IX transgender bathroom laws. They can use regular or all-gender bathrooms.

Title IX, passed in 1972, is the federal law that says no one should be excluded, harassed or discriminated against based on their sex and gender in any federally funded educational institution. Since its passage, Republicans have been known for criticizing Title IX, claiming that it’s aggressive and overreaching.

Trump’s affect on the rise of rape culture

Due to Title IX, students are encouraged to report cases of sexual harassment to their college’s Title IX coordinator. However, students face internal barriers caused by Trump’s contribution to rape culture.

Trump’s acts of sexual misconduct that surfaced during his presidential campaign clearly exemplify the perpetuation of rape culture, which is a sociological concept used to describe a society that blames victims for sexual assault and normalizes sexual violence.

Trump has been accused of making inappropriate sexual comments and unwarranted groping, kissing and touching by a number of women. Even though he denies these claims, footage of him saying “grab them by the pussy” confirms that he feels entitled to a woman’s body.

It is dangerous to downplay the act of sexual assault by saying it’s merely “locker room talk” because it justifies the aggressors’ actions.

Melissa Fresnoza, a Psychology student at Skyline College explains that Trump’s harmful actions have a profound effect on impressionable college students. “People will inevitably mimic Trump,” Fresnoza said.

“I think Trump will normalize rape culture in college campuses, making some actions such as molestation and rape seem okay,” Fresnoza said. “Allowing the president to joke and exhibit lewd behavior implies that it’s normal, when in reality, no one should be belittled.”

Trump never admitted that he partook in sexual harassment, which means he did not consider his actions to be harmful. Consequently, the aggressor’s inhibition to rape, molest or make rude comments are lowered, but the secondhand effect is that it prevents witnesses or victims to speak up because they think they are being over dramatic or irrational because the harassment wasn’t serious enough.

What students should do if they witness or experience sexual harassment

Alberto Rodriguez, an English major, discusses the hesitation students feel to report cases of sexual misconduct due to stigma surrounding it.

“It’s difficult to admit you’ve been sexually harassed or to accuse someone of it because it’s such a serious crime. They feel a lot of shame and fear,” Rodriguez said. “From experiences [I’ve] heard, students would not report their incidents with sexual harassment.”

Garcia notes that overcoming the fear of reporting sexual misconduct is crucial because it benefits the entire college community.

“Don’t be a bystander,” Garcia said. “If you see something, say something.”

Araceli Gonzalez, an Engineering major, feels differently from Rodriguez but is unsure of how to speak up.

“I feel safe reporting any form of sexual harassment for myself and anyone,” Gonzalez said. “But I wouldn’t know who exactly to go to. I know to speak to a faculty member, but there is probably someone who specifically deals with those cases.”

Upholding Title IX

Angelica Garcia, Skyline’s Vice President of Student Services and Title IX Coordinator of two years deals with such cases.

“Since Skyline College is an educational institution that receives federal financial assistance in multiple forms, we are obligated to comply with Title IX programming efforts,” Garcia said. “We don’t only do this because it’s the law, but because making students feel safe is the right thing to do.”

Garcia expressed that Skyline will do everything they can so that students don’t need to fear retaliation from anyone they might be filing a grievance against.

“This needs to be a place where people can feel comfortable discussing sex-based harassment,” Garcia said.

Students should also know that Skyline’s Title IX coordinator is required to maintain a high level of confidentiality and that they will not be redirected from one faculty member to another if they already share a grievance with a faculty member.

The student will then be directed to Garcia right away who listens to students, gathers information about the grievance and informs the student about what level of counseling and/or public safety services that are available to them.

April is Sexual Harassment Awareness month. On April 11 there will be a kick-off in the Fireside dining room and an escalation workshop on April 12 in the Multicultural Center.