Harassment an ongoing issue

A report of sexual assault Thursday, March 3 at Los Medanos College has sparked concern among students, faculty and staff. While this event is currently the primary concern of LMC’s Police Services, it is only part of a larger, ongoing problem facing the campus community.

“Sometimes complaints may be forwarded to our Dean of Student Success, Dave Belman, because there is a perceived violation of the Student Code of Conduct,” said Dean of Student Services Gail Newman in an email. “Other times, the complaints may come to me if sexual harassment is involved.”

The student code of conduct explicitly describes what is and what is not acceptable on campus behavior.

Acts that violate the student code of conduct include, but are not limited to: Disruptive or abusive behavior, such as verbal harassment, habitual profanity or vulgarity, physical abuse, intimidation, hazing, or stalking of any member of the college community and engaging in lewd, indecent, or obscene behavior on District owned or controlled property or at a District sponsored or supervised function.

Last semester, student  Sha’Rena Moore said she experienced sexual harassment on campus when a man, whose name she cannot recall, followed her into the bookstore, the math building and attempted to walk home with her.

“He laid his chin on my shoulder and I thought, ‘Maybe there’s something wrong with him,’ so I let him do that,” said Moore, who thought nothing of this ‘touchy’ behavior at first.

Moore set her cell phone down on the counter while purchasing her books. He picked it up and began going through it, but gave it back to her when she asked.

As Moore walked to the math building, he followed her in, claiming he could “help her with her homework” and continued to invade her personal space.

“We were in there for about half an hour,” said Moore. “He turned himself toward me, opened his legs and moved close to me. He put his body on me.”

At this point, Moore said she was extremely uncomfortable and decided it was time for her to go home, so she packed her belongings and began walking toward the front of the school with her unwanted suitor in tow. Moore told him she had to leave, but he insisted on walking her home.

“He wouldn’t let up. He wanted to walk me to my house,” said Moore.

The more she rebuked him, the more persistent he became. Moore said that when he asked for her phone number, she gave him a fake one.

“You don’t know how he’s going to react. I was just hoping he wouldn’t call the number I gave him,” said Moore about her attempts to make the man leave her alone.

Then, Moore says, he tried to kiss her.

“I was freaked out. Now you tried to kiss me on my face. I didn’t know who he was. I just wanted him to leave me alone,” she said.

When Moore got to her house and told her mother what had happened, she was urged to report the incident. The next day she told a counselor who was familiar with the man giving Moore problems.

Moore says the counselor informed her that she was ‘not the only girl this had happened to.’ Luckily for Moore, after she reported his behavior she never saw the man again.

“Any male or female that is feeling harassed or uncomfortable by anyone, they should immediately report it before it’s too late. This is a common problem that happens everyday and often leads to something bad happening when nothing is done to stop it,” said Moore.

“Don’t be afraid to call the police if you are ever put in that situation where someone is harassing you,” she added.

Although the harassment Moore experienced was of a sexual nature, other types of harassment are becoming more and more prevalent on campus.

“Harassment can come in a variety of forms and it would be difficult to say how often it is reported,” said Newman.

LMC student, Laya Clark, experienced physical harassment in the cafeteria during the fall 2015 semester. Clark, who is open about her associations with LMC Allies Club and her sexuality, believes the attack could have stemmed from this.

“I saw something fly by my head and heard someone yell ‘dyke!’” said Clark.

Clark did not report the incident since she was unsure of who the perpetrators were, but thinks that reporting threatening behaviors is a step forward in eradicating these occurrences.

“I’d like to tell people who are harassed not to be afraid to speak up,” said Clark in an email. “I wish I had reported the incident. It may not seem like a big deal to you at the time, because to me it wasn’t, but if it happens to one person it can happen to another and that other person might not be so lucky as to not get hurt.”

Clark said the two hooded perpetrators, who were not confirmed to be students, ran out of the cafeteria before Clark could identify them.

“If there are complaints of harassment involving someone that isn’t a student, Police Services normally gets involved and escorts the subject of the complaint off-campus,” said Newman in an email.

For those being harassed by a non-student, the lines blur slightly. Sure, the harasser can be taken off-campus in that moment, but that does not guarantee he or she will not return at another time.

Monitoring who enters and spends time on the LMC campus can be difficult.

“The community college district’s campuses are open to the public,” said Police Services Lieutenant Ryan Huddleston in an email.

“They need to contact us so we can attempt to contact the other person. We will attempt to determine if they are students or not,” he added. “If they are not and are causing a disturbance and/or committing a crime they will be asked to leave the campus.”

Reporting harassment and other suspicious behaviors on campus is pivotal to finding a resolution to the problem, but often incidences occur and nothing is ever said or brought to the attention of LMC administration or Police Services.

“Complaints will go in spurts. There is no regularity. I’ve had semesters where there are no complaints,” said Newman.

Although there were no formal complaints made, that does not mean episodes of harassment and other suspicious behaviors vanished all together, but rather they were not reported.

Any person on-campus exhibiting signs of stalking behaviors, which according to the Police Services’ ‘Stalking Behaviors’ pamphlet, include: following or waiting for someone, repeated calls, text messages or emails and any attempts to gather personal information through the internet, should be reported to Police Services on campus.

“Complaints about stalking may involve our Police Services,” said Newman in an email. That behavior, she added, ‘is a violation of the Student Code of Conduct.’

It is important to act quickly when reporting incidents of stalking, harassment, both sexual and nonsexual in nature, and other suspicious behaviors. Informative pamphlets are available in the Police Services lobby. They provide helpful tips to students and instruct them to take action right away.

The ‘Stalking Behaviors’ pamphlet also states, “Inform the harasser that you do not wish to be involved or contacted in any way. Do not respond to further communications. Keep a log of all contacts, communications, and sightings of the harasser, including dates, times, locations, and the names of any witnesses. Make a police report and consider getting a restraining order.”

Additionally, Police Services offers escorts to and from the parking lots at any hour of the day to help ensure the well-being of students and staff. They also recommend to walk in groups whenever possible, especially at night.

“We ask that if anyone is concerned about someone harassing them that they come in and speak with an officer. If they believe they are being harassed, followed or bothered while on campus we ask that they call us and provide us with a description so our staff can contact them,” said Huddleston in an email.