In a bid to raise awareness and shed some light on the subject, the academy had invited psychology officers from Ibu Pejabat Polis Kontinjen Kuala Lumpur, Dr. Kogilavani Rajendran and Ally Wee, to deliver a ‘Sexual Harassment Awareness Seminar’. Both speakers presented before a crowd of students and staff members who, at the end of the seminar, were more aware and well-informed on the matter than before.
Dr. Kogilavani from Bahagian Agama dan Kaunseling possesses a PhD in Psychology of Child Development, and has four years’ experience in conducting counselling sessions for staff with work-related problems, family issues, behavioural and psychological problems. On the other hand, Ally Wee from Bahagian Siasatan Seksual & Penderaan Kanak-kanak, has a Master of Counselling Psychology and with 10 years of counselling service experience, has conducted talks for counselling centres, NGOs, hotels, schools and in-house staff training.
Sexual harassment is defined as any unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, and other verbal and physical conduct of a sexual nature which makes a person feel offended, degraded or intimidated. It is categorised into three types – verbal, physical and visual. Verbal harassment constitutes dirty jokes, suggestive comments and intrusive questions about a person’s body, sexual propositions, etc. Physical harassment includes unwanted grabbing, touching, hugging or kissing; while visual harassment includes inappropriate or sexually explicit text messages, emails, pictures, videos, graffiti and more.
It is mostly prevalent in schools, colleges and workplaces. Among some info shared were myths vs. facts – myths such as women ask to be sexually harassed by the way they dress, and men cannot be sexually harassed, when in reality men are as vulnerable to such harassment as women; and facts such as sexual harassment is a crime that is punishable by law, and most often committed by a person of authority towards someone of less power.
Sexual harassment affects victims physically and emotionally, leaving them to suffer from stress, hormone imbalance, increase or decrease in weight, sleeping disorder and various illnesses. They are also susceptible to feelings of anger, shame, fear, anxiety, loss of trust, low self-esteem, self-blame and depression, eventually disrupting their daily lives and performance in school or at work.
Also shared were measures to take if it happens. The victims may communicate with the harasser their feelings and that they expect the behaviour to stop. If the offence is severe and the harasser obviously has bad intentions, they should bring the matter up to the authorities. When lodging a police report, victims should try to recognise the face of the perpetrator and give details such as appearance, vehicle, weapon used. If there are no other ways to identify the attacker, scratch the skin to obtain DNA in the fingernails that can be used for forensic tests. Alternately, we can help victims by not ignoring a sexual harassment should we witness it. We should also be supportive and urge them to voice out and seek help. However, only offer your help when the victim wants to be helped, as their privacy has to be respected.
Those who wish to seek help or report a case may call Department of Social Welfare Malaysia’s Helpline at 15999.