We’ve all come across sexual harassment in one way or another — either experiencing it ourselves, witnessing it or hearing about it happen to others. It’s not only inappropriate and unacceptable — it’s ugly, whatever form it takes. It causes so much insecurity, pain, fear, trauma and a lot more negative emotions and thoughts that could stay with victims for years or even a lifetime. Nobody should have to go through that.
Even though sexual harassment may not be fully eradicated — it can literally happen anytime, anywhere, even at home — the first step to solving this issue is to speak up. It may sound easy, but it’s not. Recounting a damaging experience like harassment takes courage, and we should all encourage victims who are able to speak up by being supportive and never blaming them in any way. Never.
Through AUC’s SpeakUp initiative, we are all here to speak up against sexual harassment, raise awareness and motivate others to do the same. The University has taken significant and swift measures to combat this issue, from its Anti-Harassment and Non-Discrimination Policy, new Office of Institutional Equity, confidential reporting mechanisms and mandatory anti-sexual harassment training (p. 20) to a monthly Dialog Series that brings together experts from different fields to tackle sexual harassment from various angles: at work, home and university campuses; in public spaces, cyberspace, media and film; policy-wise; and through gender norms and socialization (p. 16). Our faculty also examine what sexual harassment means and why it’s important, particularly in a university context (p. 12), how harassers aren’t necessarily strangers but can be from within our domestic circles as well (p. 38) and what male harassers are actually thinking when they engage in such behavior (p. 34). Our students are leading debates and organizing competitions (p. 37), and our alumni are using their platforms to make a change (p. 24, p. 30).
Speaking of change, you’ve probably heard of Nadeen Ashraf (p. 28), a philosophy student at AUC, founder of @assaultpolice and a heroine in her own right. She is one striking example of our students who are #MakingAUCProud — empowering women and creating a platform to expose harassers and hold them accountable. Nadeen Ashraf’s name has become synonymous on a global scale with the fight against sexual harassment because of her bravery and successful initiative encouraging others to speak up — sending a clear message to victims that “we’ve got your back.” As one of our alumni, Omar Samra ’00, puts it, the whole society should become Assault Police (p. 16).
Another one of our alumni, Gala El Hadidi ’05, ’07 talks to us about her own experience with harassment in Germany and how it took her 10 years to overcome it (p. 40).
And, of course, there is the crucial role of the arts and literature. Msh Zanbek, a play written by students and alumni and directed by faculty, tackles sexual harassment from diverse standpoints that people can relate to (p. 22), and an AUC Press book attempts to define masculinity across the region (p. 27). We also look at common misconceptions related to sexual harassment (p. 10) and what hinders people from reporting or talking about the issue (p. 32).
Whether it’s happened to you or to someone you know or even don’t know, the key to fighting sexual harassment is to make our voices heard loud and clear. Let’s all SpeakUp.