Wed, Jul 11, 2018 - Page 13 News List

Why college students in Taiwan hesitate to report sexual harassment

An ineffective reporting system, fear of repercussions and a lack of protections keep young women from reporting

By Joy Chang  /  Contributing reporter

Cheng Che (鄭澈), a former student representative on NTU’s gender equity education committee, says he knew nothing about the committee before he joined.

“I knew it existed, but I didn’t know anything about its operation and what it does,” he says. “Most students don’t know how to seek help through the committee.”

Jhon says that she has advised Tamkung’s committee to cooperate with student organizations to make the reporting system and other resources regarding sexual harassment more accessible.

VICTIMS NOT PROTECTED

Another concern voiced by victims is that they are not protected.

Jhon says in one of the cases sent to Tamkung’s gender equity committee earlier this year, the victim, who had filed a complaint against a professor, refused to proceed with the reporting process because she did not want him to find out her identity. However, the committee went to the accused professor’s department and gave a general statement on sexual harassment prevention. The administrator of the committee also privately informed the professor about the complaint, Jhon says.

“The professor was given the heads-up,” she says.

Jhon adds that since all the reported cases from this semester would be discussed at a meeting in late June, the accused professor was given time to prepare a defense.

Committees do not have the authority to decide the penalty when the offender is a faculty member. They can only suggest a punishment. The final decision is made by the university’s faculty evaluation committee.

Jhon says the gender equity committee does not have much power because all faculty members are also managed by the Office of Human Resources, which is directly under the office of Tamkung’s president.

She adds that penalties vary from case to case.

“Professors involved in such cases may be suspended or transferred,” Jhon says. When asked about the status of professors who have been accused of sexual harassment, she says that most of them are still teaching at the university.

FEAR OF NOT BEING BELIEVED

Victims of sexual harassment hesitate to talk about their experiences or report out of fear of not being believed.

Tso was unable to react when she was sexually harassed by her teacher — a response common to victims of sexual harassment or assault.

“Many of the victims — both sexual assault and sexual harassment — become paralyzed in that moment,” the Garden of Hope Foundation’s Tu says. “When you are violated in such a way, you’re unable to react. This is how our body works,” she says.

Huang says that if the harasser is an acquaintance or someone in a position of authority, victims may not know how to respond because they feel uncomfortable and don’t want to make the situation more awkward.

“We need to understand that there are cases where the perpetrators use their power to silence the victims,” Tu says. “The power imbalance and the relationship between the two sides can stop the victims from seeking help or making the incident public.

Democratic Progressive Party legislator Yu Mei-nu (尤美女) says victims are more willing to report sexual harassment or assault committed by strangers.

“The problem lies in violence perpetrated by acquaintances,” Yu says, which is the most common form of sexual violence in Taiwan today.

Among all the documented sexual harassment cases from the 2016 report by the Gender Equality Committee of the Executive Yuan, about 30 percent came from acquaintances. That number rises to more than 80 percent for sexual assault.

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