Editorial: Prepping youths to resist harassment

Editorial: Prepping youths to resist harassment
EditorialEditorial: Prepping youths to resist harassment

Internship is an important rite of passage for in-school youths, bringing opportunities for training and employment.

College undergraduates become apprentices or interns at institutions, which partner with their schools to provide on-the-job experience, field deployment or work orientation.

Other students volunteer to work with government or nongovernment organizations in service programs.

Such programs emphasize reciprocal responsibilities and mutual benefits. Among the youths, the values of service, professionalism and preparation for future employment are often emphasized by their teachers and supervisors.

However, there should also be an emphasis to prepare youths to deal with the complexities that they will be exposed to in their transition to the world beyond the academe.

A key preparation that school heads should provide for their students before they are assigned to their respective public or private partners is an orientation and training on anti-sexual harassment.

As mandated by Republic Act (RA) 7877, sexual harassment is unlawful in employment, education or training environments.

Also known as the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995, RA 7877 defines as unlawful any act 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 person “demands, requests or otherwise requires any sexual favor.”

The law requires that every institution creates a committee on decorum and investigation of cases on sexual harassment.

Educational institutions should include an orientation that not only raises awareness but also prepares the youths to recognize, anticipate and appropriately respond to threats or acts of sexual harassment in the workplace or training environment.

Youths with a high regard for authority figures may be easily manipulated into situations that make them not only vulnerable to sexual opportunism from their supervisors or employees at work.

They may be gaslighted into accepting the blame for inviting or “misunderstanding” gestures or expressions of concern or congeniality for sexual advances or insinuations.

Aside from victim-blaming as a common ruse resorted to by sexual predators, toxic work environments cynically normalize and condone sexism, misogyny or homophobia, especially involving outsiders, such as student interns and apprentices.

The power imbalance between an intern and his or her supervisor, who will evaluate the former’s performance on the job for his or her course on apprenticeship, is precisely the rationale for the passage of RA 7877.

A youth, especially one conscious of this power distance or raised to be docile and submissive, may become inarticulate and inexpressive even though he or she may inwardly recoil from or resist the sexual advances of a training supervisor or colleague.

Thus, school orientations of their students prior to deployment for internship, apprenticeship, or community service must equip a young person to be emotionally ready to assert his or her rights, protect his or her dignity regardless of the power hierarchy operating in the environment and seek intervention or assistance when his or her rights have been violated.

Adults are expected to act with maturity and responsibility, especially when they lead other individuals.

Yet, young people need to understand that when their personal boundaries are crossed by a “green” joke casually exchanged or “friendly” gestures involving body-touching by a colleague or boss, their feeling of discomfort and anxiety should never be dismissed or belittled.

If the other person does not cease the act even after being informed of the youth’s discomfort, the intern or apprentice must seek help from a teacher or school authority to intervene and stop the sexual harassment. Sanctions must be taken so that the perpetrator does not victimize another.

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