Our chance for change


By Sarah Berkowsky ’19

Since what has felt like the dawn of time, men, women and everyone in between has likely had an unwanted encounter with someone making sexual advances. Sexual assault and harassment are still very much around today. It’s not just alive, but it’s thriving. Call it by whatever name you want, such as ‘locker room talk’ or ‘boys being boys.’

I’ll give you a moment to think about a time someone said or did something in a sexual manner that made you uncomfortable — I’ll wait, take as much (or as little) time as you need. Because every 98 seconds an American is sexually assaulted, according to RAINN. If you could think of one, I’m genuinely sorry you had to go through that.

The #MeToo movement shows how prevalent sexual harassment and assault are. The actress Alyssa Milano first tweeted out “MeToo” on the night of October 15th. In less than 12 hours, the hashtag #MeToo had been tweeted more than 30,000 times.

According to an ABCNews poll, approximately 54% of women in the workplace have experienced sexual harassment at their work environment. Dr. Colleen Palmer, Superintendent of Schools for Westport, has spoken about her experiences with sexual harassment in the workplace. When she was younger, her boss made unwanted advances towards her and when she refused he did not respect that. “He retaliated against me,” she said. She spoke about how her boss made her work environment hostile until she found another job.

Fortunately, we are moving away from the old, hurtful stereotypes of the past. We know society’s views on gender and their roles are changing – TIME Magazine’s “Person of the Year” for 2017 is the “Silence Breakers.” The Silence Breakers are both men and women who spoke out against sexual assault and harassment. However, there is still rot festering under all of this change – there is still work that must be done. Education is key to the undoing of our sexual assault and harassment problem. At Staples, there is a Title IX Compliance Officer Title IX is the federal civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in education; our Title IX Compliance Officer is Richard Franzis. Most students, however, are unaware that he holds that position. This shows that there is a crucial need to educate Staples students on our rights and who we can go to for help.

We, not just me, or you, or that kid who sits next to you in class – all of us – need to change the way that society treats victims of sexual assault and harassment. We need to change our attitude towards people who come forward and share their stories, we must embrace them rather than shame, ignore or ridicule them. We must seize this moment, and place ourselves in history as the ones who could end the scourge of sexism. Together, we can accomplish things once thought impossible to change.