A national study recently released by the American Association of University Women found that 62 percent of college students have encountered some form of sexual harassment while at school.
Despite this high percentage, it is speculated that the majority of sexual harassment cases go unreported.
"Most students don't report sexual harassment to a college employee and may tell no one," according to the report.
Roselyn Cutler, the associate director of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity (OEOD) at CSU, explained that although many cases go unreported, she has seen an increase in complaints in the past five years. However, she believes this does not reflect an increase of occurrences but rather an increase in reporting.
"More people willing to report, more cases are being brought forward by professors and instructors," she said. "They are better educated and more sensitive to sexual harassment."
Sexual harassment is defined as any "unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal and physical conduct of a sexual nature."
CSU recognizes two types of sexual harassment. The first type, quid pro quo sexual harassment, occurs between a person in a position of power, such as an instructor or employer, and a person under their direction, such as a student or employee. The other form, hostile environment sexual harassment, occurs when an academic or work environment is intimidating, hostile or offensive.
Cutler said the majority of cases she has dealt with have been hostile environment cases, where the complainant feared some form of retaliation. The university encourages informal resolutions of these complaints whenever possible. However, Cutler said that these resolutions are becoming more rare. Of the 30 cases brought to the OEOD since June 2004, 70 percent ended with official grievances being filed.
Some students are not too surprised or concerned by the frequency or lack of reporting of sexual harassment.
"Everyone seems to have their own definition of sexual harassment," said Kylee O'Dwyer, a junior construction management major. "Sometimes I think girls are just too sensitive."
Bonnie Merson agreed that people have different definitions of sexual harassment. She has seen women ignore sexually suggestive comments or behavior that she wouldn't let slide.
"Sometimes I hear something and think I would have hurt him if I had that said to me," said Merson, a junior human development and family studies major.
Cutler said sexual assault is less arbitrary. The law states if a reasonable person would recognize certain behaviors as sexual harassment, then it is.
Cutler agreed with the report, which noted that most harassers are male and tend to think of their behavior as funny. But she also said it is important to note that sexual harassment can occur between anyone, not just a male harassing a female. Harassment is still harassment, no matter what the genders between the two parties and should be treated seriously.
To report a sexual harassment incidence please contact the OEOD at (970) 491-5836.
Mary Swanson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org