By the Valemount Secondary School Social Justice Class
Students in our class have noticed an increase in sexual harassment in Valemount, especially towards underage girls. There are multiple accounts of young women being followed around by vehicles, catcalled out of car windows, and being hit on frequently while working. We want young women in the community to feel safe in their home and right now, they don’t.
We implore you to do something if you see this behaviour in public. Speaking up can be difficult and scary for women, and it is not always safe to do so. However, men can help by calling out their friends and neighbours who may be making young girls, or women in our community uncomfortable. If you see someone being harassed, try to get them away from the harasser, and make sure the person being targeted is okay.
What forms can sexual harassment take?
Sexual harassment can take on many forms. It can be as simple as giving “compliments” that make people uncomfortable or calling them affectionate and unasked for nicknames. Even if you mean well, calling women things like “sweetheart” or “darling” can still make them uncomfortable. Comments about someone’s appearance can be uncomfortable even if they are complementary in nature. Telling women to smile more isn’t a compliment, it’s rude.
Sexual harassment can also be more extreme such as repeatedly asking someone out after they say no. It can include catcalling, touching women without consent (such as on the arm, shoulder or back when walking past them), following women who are walking around, stalking them, messaging them inappropriately or harassing them on social media, or making sexual comments or gestures.
The intentions of the person committing the act of sexual harassment do not matter. If the person the actions are aimed at feels afraid, embarrassed, uncomfortable, or ashamed, it is sexual harassment. Sexual assault refers to unwanted sexual activity such as touching, kissing, or rape.
If you have been harassed, or assaulted, either here in the community or elsewhere, your experience is valid and heard. There are many resources out there to help respond to sexual assault and harassment. Robson Valley Community Services has services dedicated to helping people who have been survivors of these offences. They also offer third party reporting to the police. They can be reached through their website (https://robsonvalleycommunityservices.org/), their email ([email protected]), or in person or by phone:
99 Gorse Street ~ Community Services Building
Valemount, BC V0E 2Z0
McBride, BC V0J 2E0
The RCMP are also responsible for doing their part to make everyone feel safe in town and to take concerns about sexual harassment seriously. The local detachment may be reached at 250-566-4466 (non-emergency line). For emergencies, call 911.