It is not a secret that the realities of culture and society are detrimental to young people, particularly in the areas of morality and sexual purity. In fact, we have been hearing about cases of sexual harassment even on campus.

According to a recent survey by the Social Weather Station and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality, three out of five women have experienced being sexually harassed; one in two women did nothing after a harassment incident; a significant number of those who experienced harassment blame themselves for the incident; and perpetrators commit sexual harassment regardless of educational background and economic status.

But even men are not exempt from sexual harassment. In fact, a lot more males than females experience not just sexual harassment but even sexual violence.

We then make it our mission to not only remind young people of their identity in God but also all the rights that come with it as His children, whether spiritual or practical.

This is the first of a two-part article about sexual harassment. Our goal is to raise awareness about this social issue and to equip our students with basic information about the subject.

God is a God of justice, and we must also pursue what is right and just. One of the greatest tools we can use to fight trauma, ignorance, and injustice is the truth—those found in Scripture, as well as those found in our laws. While there are different laws that apply to different cases, here is some helpful information you should know about sexual harassment.

What is sexual harassment?

Philippine laws uphold the rights of young people against sexual harassment, which can be found in R.A. No. 7877 or the Anti-sexual Harassment Act of 1995.

Work, education or training-related sexual harassment is committed by an employer, employee, manager, supervisor, agent of the employer, teacher, instructor, professor, coach, trainor, or any other person who, having authority, influence or moral ascendancy over another in a work or training or education environment, demands, requests or otherwise requires any sexual favor from the other, regardless of whether the demand, request or requirement for submission is accepted by the object of said Act.

—Section 3, Republic Act No. 7877

The law gives examples of specific instances that constitute sexual harassment. These situations include unwelcome sexual favors, advances, and other similar acts happening in the workplace or in schools. This is not limited to physical harassment, but rather, the law states that other forms such as catcalling or verbal abuse can be a form of sexual harassment. Even the display, discussion, or distribution of any material that is sexually offensive is a form of harassment.

How do I know if a situation constitutes sexual harassment?

Nowadays, sexual harassment is becoming more and more common in different campuses. Some experience being asked for sexual favors as a condition to get a certain grade, scholarship, or other privileges and considerations. Other instances involve advances that result in an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment for the student.

Reported cases of sexual harassment in schools involve professors demanding sexual favors from students, lewd behavior, inappropriate gestures, and conversations with sexual overtones.

As long as the victim feels unsafe due to the environment created by such acts, then the offender’s intent need not be proven. This is because the law views that the offender, being one of moral ascendancy, influence, or authority over the offended party, is held to a higher standard of responsibility and liability.

Where do I go?

If the incident happened in your school or university, report it to school authorities such as the guidance office or whoever is in charge of student concerns in your campus. They are mandated by law to prevent sexual harassment in the school or to take immediate action when it does happen.

If, however, you wish to pursue filing a criminal case against the offender, then you may directly file a complaint affidavit to the prosecutor’s office, who, upon finding probable cause, will file your complaint with the court.

Aside from these formal actions you may take, we also would like to encourage you to approach other people of authority and trust who could help you process what happened and assist you in taking the right steps—family members, school administration, government authorities, lawyers, counselors, and campus missionaries.

Before resorting to social media or other groups, we highly advise that you first build your support system with a number of wise, able, and trusted people who can protect you, process with you, and pray alongside you.

Disclosing to a few is much safer and wiser than sharing everything publicly right away. It will also protect you while the case is ongoing. Because we want true recovery and not just quick remedies, we strongly believe that restoration must be from the inside out, rather than outside in.

How do I help a friend who is experiencing this?

Be that support system for your friend. This might be one of the toughest times, if not the most, that your friend has ever had to face.

Someone who has been harassed sexually usually suffers trauma, fear, insecurity, shame, and other lies that they might be believing about themselves. And the only thing that could fight any lie is the truth.

So speak the truth into your friends’ life by reminding them of their worth, their future, and the refuge they can find in God.

Where do I find hope after this?

The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Psalm 9:9

Whether this happened to you or to someone close to you, we are deeply sorry. We may not fully know the pain that this experience entails but what we do know is this: What you went through will never determine what you’re made of (Psalm 139:13,14), where you’re headed (Jeremiah 29:11), and to whom you belong (Psalm 100:3).

God promises the healing of hearts and redemption of pasts. In this promise, we have the confidence that He will be with you in all your battles, whether emotional, legal, or spiritual. He will not only fight alongside you, but He will fight for you the way He does each and every day. Even on the days when hope seems dim, we want to remind this generation of this truth: You are sons and daughters who deserve to be loved, respected, and fought for—the way Jesus did on the cross.