With public awareness of what constitutes sexual harassment growing and discussion about it increasing amid a rise in incidents, it is unfortunate that some universities do not know how to protect people from it or respond with sensitivity toward the victims.
Social media have become a place for victims to speak out, and people in power have greater difficulty hiding experiences of sexual harassment, especially with the media also ready to pounce on the stories.
For example, the boycott of Fu Wan Chocolate over alleged sexual harassment involving a former company president grew out of an Internet post by the alleged victim that went viral.
The latest incident involves a female university student in New Taipei City, who fell asleep in the university library when a male student allegedly masturbated next to her and ejaculated on her jacket. She reported the incident to the police and the suspect was arrested.
While the university’s gender equity committee reportedly said that it would look into the incident, it repeatedly referred to it as a “prank,” and said that the male student was “naughty” and “immature,” and did “not know better.”
Such terms are typically used to excuse improper behavior by young children or teenagers, but he is in his fourth year at university, and it is egregious that the terms would be applied in such a case.
When the victim asked that the perpetrator be expelled, the university said that expulsion only happens in the case of sexual assault. Even if that is the case, it is inappropriate and insensitive to say that to someone who just went through such an ordeal.
The university has denied that a committee member made those remarks, writing on Facebook that it has launched an investigation and is waiting for a report to determine the fate of the perpetrator.
However, Internet users wrote a flood of angry comments to the post, causing the university to shut down the Facebook page.
In September last year, a man who sexually harassed a woman at a train station in a similar fashion was convicted of public indecency and sentenced to 50 days in jail.
The perpetrator in the latest incident is facing several criminal charges, further showing that it was not a prank.
After learning about the case, a former student at the university said that when she complained several years ago to the university about being sexually harassed during a school-arranged internship, she was told that there was nothing the university could do unless she was sexually assaulted.
No department wanted to take responsibility and, eventually, the incident was reportedly swept under the rug.
It remains to be seen how the university handles the latest case — especially after the widespread reporting of such incidents.
Regardless of who said what, the case shows that Internet users generally side with victims. Companies and universities need to exercise caution and show sensitivity, and not think that they can make the incidents disappear.
Meanwhile, a cram school teacher in Taipei has been accused of bringing male masturbation toys to a Christmas party for high-school students.
In an absurd twist, the school vehemently denied that the action was inappropriate, saying that all the students at the party were male and the toys were used to liven up the atmosphere.
How different is that from a teacher bringing dildos to a party for female high-school students? This is simply disturbing and misguided, and needs to be seriously investigated.
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