Sexual Harassment

Harassment can include “sexual harassment,” or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.

Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature. It can also include offensive remarks about a person’s sex or gender. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general.

Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment, or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).

The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer. It doesn’t matter who is doing it, because it is the victim’s right to decide if they feel harassed.

Many people defend harassment by saying that it was harmless, or just a form of flirting. Here are some basic guidelines to help differentiate between the two.


  • is welcome attention
  • goes both ways/is mutual
  • makes you feel flattered or attractive
  • makes you feel in control
  • makes you feel good about yourself
  • is legal

Sexual Harassment

  • is not wanted
  • is one-sided
  • makes you feel put-down or ugly
  • makes you feel powerless
  • makes you feel bad or dirty
  • is a violation of a company's or organization's policy

Sexual harassment is unwanted sexual attention or conduct, and it is defined by the victim, just like sexual assault. It is insidious and widespread, but it is NOT inevitable. However, because these behaviors are so normalized, we need proactive education and training to create safe work environments built on respect and accountability.

MESA offers customized, affordable, and effective training using a socio-ecological model of prevention. We engage all levels of staff to address beliefs and behaviors at individual, interpersonal, and cultural levels.

Whether your company/organization needs to address current harassment issues or seeks to prevent problems from arising, a sexual harassment prevention training is a critical step building a safe, inclusive work environment free of harassment.

Customized workshops are available ranging from 1 to 8 hours. Contact for details and pricing.

End the Gray Areas–Silence Isn’t Sexy

The Power of ‘Yes’ and Enthusiastic Affirmative Consent 

Trigger Warning: This post contains graphic description of sexual assault.
        Anyone who’s been through a high school health curriculum knows that sex education focuses on asking for consent and that no means no (or, you know, “don’t have sex. You will get pregnant, and die,” as the Mean Girls’ coach puts it).  No means no. It’s simple.

        Yet it seems that people can’t get their head around an idea that’s just as simple: that yes means yes. Yes means yes and that’s the only thing that means yes. Being drunk isn’t consent, flirting isn’t consent, and wearing revealing clothing certainly isn’t consent. Unfortunately, a rape trial in Steubenville, OH last year raised another serious concern: people assume silence is a form of consent for sex.

        The victim, a completely intoxicated 16-year-old girl at a house party, was witnessed by several to not even be able to lift her head, nonetheless walk. Two high school boys took the unresponsive girl by her ankles and hands, raped her in a car, then took her back to the house where people started to urinate on the shirtless girl on the ground as a joke. If Jane Doe were sober enough to give consent for sex, she would’ve been able to react to the “joke,” which, of course, she couldn’t. That was the whole point of the joke. Concurrently, her silence during the rape didn’t mean that she consented to it, it meant that she was so intoxicated to articulate a clear refusal.

        The boys’ lawyer argued that silence is consent; that “she didn’t affirmatively say no.” Not only is this against the law that going out with someone is not equivalent to consent for sex but it also implies that lack of refusal means yes; that the default in a sexual situation is yes. Newsflash: there is no default. Yes is the only thing that means yes.
Let me make this clear: silence does not imply consent.

        The only form of consent should be enthusiastic affirmation, not an enthusiastic negation. There should be a verbally affirmative consent before any sexual activity. The affirmative consent standard is defined as a clear, unambiguous and voluntary agreement between participants to engage in specific sexual activity.

   Unfortunately, the current culture depicts sex as a quiet activity, leading to ambiguous ‘gray’ sex. This model lies on two major faulty assumptions. First, one person’s pleasure takes priority over another. Second, that people inherently want to get laid, well pronounced by Robin Thicke’s hit song Blurred Lines: “I know you want it/ You’re a good girl/ The way you grab me/ Must wanna get nasty.” Admittedly a catchy song but not so catchy when it comes out of rapists’ mouths.

        The popular objection to enthusiastic affirmation is that ‘it will ruin the mood.’ Objectors claim that speaking out loud and asking if the other is comfortable with whatever you’re doing would just break the spontaneous beauty of it all. Who needs permission when you’ve got a magical sixth sense that you just know what the other people want? Sad to break it to you, but people are not gifted with this supernatural power. We need verbatim communication.

        What’s more, just saying no is not enough. If a person is not sure what he or she wants, it’s harder to put the brakes on, ultimately going too far beyond his or her comfort zone. Wait a second, this situation sounds awfully familiar: rape. The “silence is sexy” script is vulnerable to rape culture. This social pressure into thinking that silence is romantic is a weak argument that will “fall apart under even casual scrutiny,” as this blog post puts it.

        The oh-so-fragile mood our “silent is sexy” script has built is not a single person’s fault. Our culture is to blame. As a participant in today’s culture, I can’t say I’m not guilty of accepting this script as a norm. However, affirmative consent isn’t a radical or novel idea. Societal change comes from individual changes, and it’s about time we take a step away from the commonly accepted view and reevaluate the convention.

In researching for this post, I have come across several campaigns (links below) that are helping others become conscious of the inevitable need for affirmative consent. My charge to you is this: take a look at these campaigns and think about how you can contribute to this movement for awareness.
by Jennifer Jun

Where is Your Line? (
Yes Means Yes (
Project Unbreakable (
Consent is Sexy (

Sexist Ad Critique

This ad is absolutely ridiculous. First of all, I have no idea what they are advertising. I had to look it up. Redtape is a store for men’s apparel, footwear, and accessories. What do those women have to do with any of those things? Second of all, the women in this picture have become an object, one hundred percent. Not only are they in a vending machine looking like dolls, but they are being bought. By a male. This shows who is dominant in the situation. Who do you think? The women stuck in glass boxes or the man with the ability to free one of them by purchasing her based off of looks? There is no point in objectifying women in this way, yes sex sells, but only because we let it. And if we protest against these kind of ads then we will begin to see a change, but only then.

The relationship between sexist advertising and sexual assault and relationship abuse may not be extremely obvious, but the thing is, they have much more to do with one another than one may think. This picture displays the male being in control. What we don’t realize is that on a daily basis we are bombarded with up to 5,000 ads. That means that we are seeing messages similar to that 5,000 times a day and 1,825,000 a year. It is guaranteed to have some effect on us. This is guaranteed to have some effect on us. 84% of spouse abuse victims are female. Could this have some correlation with what is presented in the media? If we are seeing 730,000 ads a day and to be fair and have some faith in humanity, 600,000 of them are sexist, then we are repeatedly having the idea of one gender being dominant over the other 600,000 times a year.

This sets up expectations of what a typical heterosexual relationship will be like. It also is disrespectful to women. Nobody forced them to do that right? In most cases yes, they are hired actresses. But it is the norm for women to have no power in these ads, or be hyper sexualized. Here are some more examples:


Too Many Martyrs

For those of us who care about this issue—who care about ending sexual assault and the suffering it causes—it can be painful, tiring and discouraging to keep up with the news. We see story after story of mishandled case and mistreated survivor. There is an unprecedented amount of media attention on sexual violence: the White House Task Force on Campus Sexual Assault, a Rape Culture feature in Time Magazine, and the many individual cases in high schools, universities, and sports teams. Individual survivors are increasingly choosing to share their stories online through hashtags like #yesallwomen and campaigns like Project Unbreakable. Each time I share another survivor’s story on social media, I am simultaneously inspired by the courage of each survivor and devastated that there’s yet another person being called upon as a martyr for the cause. While it’s true that each survivor has their own path to healing, and for some, it’s meaningful and powerful to transform their experience into a beacon for other survivors who had thought they were alone; it’s also true that every survivor whose story has been made public becomes the target of victim-blaming, ridicule, and general hatred. This pattern is exemplified recently and blatantly with a hashtag mocking Jada after video footage of her rape circulated the internet. How many survivors will have to expose themselves or be exposed to harsh words from rape apologists? How many more survivors will be targeted by folks clinging to their belief in a just world in which people only get what’s coming to them, instead of the reality that no one ever deserves sexual assault and yet there are some people who still commit sexual assault? When will the nonsurvivors be ready to hear what survivors have to say?

Our culture certainly isn’t changing as drastically or as quickly toward a survivor-supportive culture and one in which sexual violence is rare (nonexistent!), universally unnacceptable, and taken seriously as I’d like; but I do see change. As MESA’s Prevention Education Coordinator, I’m lucky enough to be able to devote my work days (and sometimes nights) to a variety of sexual violence prevention efforts. One of these projects is providing a 6-8 session curriculum on both healthy relationships and sexual consent to high school students in Boulder Valley School District. When I first accepted this position, I feared that this work to be difficult—and my friends and acquaintances reinforced this fear. I expected to have to do a lot of self care after attempts to discuss the importance of consent and to name the aspects of our culture that condone sexual violence fell on unreceptive minds. To my surprise (and joy), I have consistently found that high school students in Boulder are more than receptive to talking about sexual violence and preventing it through individual actions (always being sure initiators have consent) and cultural change (challenging rape culture). The students in the classrooms I get to visit are ready to break the silence on sexual assault. Even if there are still ignorant and cruel commenters on blog posts, young people are listening.

Victim Blaming

Rape. It brings to mind images of force, an obvious lack of consent, maybe even a weapon. In the stereotypical scenario, the victim is clearly saying no, and the perpetrator either threatens them or forces them to do something against their will.

The truth is that rape rarely ever looks like that. Two of every three rapes are committed by someone the victim knows (see Types of Sexual Violence). Most of the time, instead of weapons or force, perpetrators use tactics like coercion to pressure someone into doing something that they don’t want to do.

According to RAINN, every 98 seconds, someone in the US experiences sexual assault. That’s about 880 people every day, and 321,500 people each year who have suffered from sexual violence.

So, if this crime is so pervasive, why is it also so common to blame the victims and survivors? Victim blaming can be very straightforward; does the phrase “they were asking for it” sound familiar? It can also be a lot harder to identify, like if someone shrugs and says, “well, that person was really drunk” of a victim that was sexually assaulted at a party. Any time someone responds to a victim by questioning what they could have done differently, they are participating in victim blaming.

The definition of victim blaming is holding the victim accountable for a crime that was committed against them. We live in a society where people, mostly women, are told to avoid rape or counseled on how to deal with what happens if they are raped. Doesn’t it make a lot more sense to teach people, mostly men, how to avoid committing the crime of rape in the first place? MESA recognizes that not all victims are women and not all perpetrators are men, but that is the trend that the current data shows.

The answer to why victim blaming is so common is a complicated one. When any type of crime is committed against you, it’s human nature to wonder what you could have done differently. While this can sometimes be useful to prevent future events of a similar nature, it is important to differentiate those sorts of thoughts from blaming yourself or blaming any victim. Any crime, especially sexual assault, would never occur if there were not a perpetrator. The most important thing to remember is that, no matter what the victim did or did not do, they would not be a victim if it weren’t for the person who committed the crime against them. All people should feel safe going about their normal lives without constantly preparing themselves for the worst possible scenario.

There are many aspects of our culture that feed into victim blaming, and it takes an open mind and open conversation to unlearn a lot of them. Here’s a good place to start: when someone is sexually assaulted, it was never their fault. The rest is just details.

Here is some more information on victim blaming:

Let’s Recall A bit of US Immigration History

There is a lot of controversial and alarming news about “Unaccompanied children crossing the borders alone”, or “Our community cannot handle this, we don’t even know what all diseases they have or their criminal background”, or “No justification for city-issued ID card for illegal immigrants”.
What’s Causing The Latest Immigration Crisis?

In general, any migrant’s or unaccompanied child’s motivation to venture to the U.S. can be based on poverty, safety concerns, fearing conditions back home, and the desire to reach the American dream. Their home countries have been racked by gang violence as well as fueled by the drug trade. In addition to that, Central American families are being misled by rumors often spread by profit-seeking smugglers that their children will be reunited with relatives already in the U.S. For many, the prospect of reuniting with family members in the U.S. is also a powerful motivating force. This is turning into the largest influx of asylum seekers on U.S. soil since the 1980 Mariel boatlift out of Cuba.
The United States has experienced major waves of immigration throughout its history. In the early 1600s the Pilgrims arrived in search of religious freedom. During the mid-1800s, a significant number of Asian immigrants settled in the United States, lured by news of the California gold rush. In the 19th and 20th centuries, many European immigrants came to America seeking greater economic opportunity. There have been 3 major waves of Cuban immigrants since the 19th century. The only exception to the rule is the hundreds of thousands of African slaves that were brought to America against their will from the 17th to 19th centuries.

The first significant federal legislation restricting immigration was the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. Individual states regulated immigration prior to the 1892 opening of Ellis Island, the country’s first federal immigration station. New laws in 1965 ended the system that favored European immigrants. In 1965, Congress passed the Immigration and Nationality Act, which did away with quotas based on nationality and allowed Americans to sponsor relatives from their countries of origin. As a result of this act and subsequent legislation, the nation experienced a shift in immigration patterns. Today, the majority of U.S. immigrants come from Asia and Latin America rather than Europe.

Consider this, from its earliest days; America has been a nation of immigrants. Throughout history people from other regions of the planet have come the U.S. looking for an opportunity for a better life. So, who are we to say “you are not welcome here”. I can guarantee you that most of us have our origins from regions other than the U.S. with the exception of the Native American. Whatever happened to “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” (The New Colossus – Emma Lazarus, 1893)
“Consider another explanation: what goes around comes around. Our forefathers and mothers did not mind invading the lands of Native Americans, removing them from the same, and corralling them onto reservations. Now, we the descendants must learn to share an earth that really is quite small”. (Cheryl Martin Ede- UT-San Diego Letters to the Editor -7/5/2014)

I could not have said this any better. If we are going to make negative allegations about immigrants that are crossing the U.S borders please say what you need to say without judging, humiliating or insulting immigrants. In addition to that, I will also suggest recalling your ancestor’s history; they may be similar to those migrants that are currently crossing the US borders.