I. What is it about?
The #MeToo movement has drawn the public's attention more toward the topic of sexualized harassment and violence. Sexual harassment in the working and learning environment is any unwanted conduct of a sexual nature that is intended to degrade or has the effect of degrading another person. This includes physical contact and assault, comments of a sexual nature, displaying pornographic images and requests for sexual favors. It is important to note here that sexuality is only the means to an end. The sole motive is to gain and abuse power over others. This is illustrated by the term "sexualized" violence.
Stalking is occurring more and more frequently, as well. A stalker wants to attract the attention of a specific person and build a relationship with them, and by any means necessary: harassing them at work, e-mails, texts, misinformation to an employer. Spreading lies about them, monitoring them and following them are par for the course. The person being stalked develops fears and insecurities that increasingly disrupt their life.
The basic problems with this act are compounded by another problem: Widespread victim-blaming by society contributes to victims being unwilling to talk about it. The burden of proof and, (in)directly, responsibility for the violation is shifted onto the victim. The victim is skeptically asked if they "actively" defended themselves or whether they did not "provoke" the harassing behavior. The perpetrator's behavior, by contrast, is framed as a seemingly natural "reaction" to perceived hints or dismissed as a miscommunication. This is why it is important for you to defend yourself against any behavior that does not earnestly consider your wishes and does not respect your boundaries.
These topics exist in all areas of life, including at institutions of higher education. Münster University of Applied Sciences focuses on these topics in various committees.
III. To whom can you reach out?
If you are experiencing or have experienced sexualized discrimination, harassment, stalking and/or violence, do not hesitate to contact the Head Equal Opportunities Officer at Münster University of Applied Sciences. The Head Equal Opportunities Officer advises on matters of sexual harassment with the utmost discretion and can even arrange for legal consultation.
If the victim wishes, the President of Münster University of Applied Sciences can also be informed.
Even if you yourself are not a victim but have witnessed harassment, or even if you just have questions, please reach out to the Head Equal Opportunities Officer.
II. What actions are we at Münster University of Applied Sciences taking? (cf. Equality Framework 2016)
The right to sexual autonomy must be guaranteed for all employees and students at Münster University of Applied Sciences. The university will take every available action to prevent sexual violence and sexual harassment. In most cases, women are the victims; however, men can also be victims. We also expressly protect and support all genders, since anyone can be or become a victim.
To this end, we have taken various actions: In close consultation with the Presidential Board and with acknowledgment from the Student Union Executive Committee, we created a #MeToo informational flyer. We also offer information events, workshops and training for students and employees, and we have also brought on an attorney specializing in victims' rights as a point of contact.
The university is obligated to exercise its legal and factual avenues to investigate sexual harassment complaints by employees, students or third parties. Any complaints made by victims cannot be used against them. The Presidential Board is responsible for ensuring compliance with the ban on sexual harassment at the university. When it comes to human resource measures, the university and immediate supervisors pay particular attention to the problem of sexual harassment and the potential danger to all genders.
Sexual harassment has a significantly negative impact on the victim, their personal rights and their right to sexual autonomy. If the perpetrator is a person employed at Münster University of Applied Sciences, the act can constitute a breach of contract and result in termination. Students engaging in sex discrimination can face expulsion.
IV. More information on this topic:
BUKOF website (National Conference of Equal Opportunities Officers at Higher Education Institutions):