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  • Reverend James Squire

When A Kiss Is Not A Kiss

When Spain beat England in that championship soccer contest, Luis Rubiales ran up and kissed one of his players, Jenni Hermosa. It was an unwanted gesture as stated by Hermosa. I thought that was because he “loss his mind” and in the passion of the moment, which can cause reason to leave an exchange, that people were coming down pretty hard on him. They wanted him to resign as the Spanish Football President. I thought for a few seconds that this had to be an innocent gesture in the overwhelming excitement of the time.

Since I wrote the initial sexual harassment policies for EA in consultation with the school attorney and other administrators, however, there must be more to this story. I was right!

First, some of the considerations that go into sexual harassment policies as opposed to sexual assault which is a civil and sometimes criminal issue include the following considerations. These considerations are also true for a general harassment policy in the workplace.

There are two kinds of harassment behavior. One is targeted behavior where the perpetrator singles out an individual to be the focus of their harassment. In addition, sexual harassment can be in the environment created in the workplace. Examples of this would be having pictures posted that are sexual in nature, conversation that has overt or covert sexual statements made, or looking at individuals in a way that the person being looked at feels uncomfortable.

At the heart of sexual harassment and general harassment is the concept of the eye of the beholder. It doesn’t matter what the perpetrator intends, it is a matter of how it is received.

I built into the policies that the person who is accusing another of sexual harassment could take a friend with him or her to confront the perpetrator about how his or her behavior was being received. They were required to stop the behavior immediately. Any retribution given to the accuser would immediately take the issue to a whole different level resulting in suspension or expulsion.

You need someone who is outside of hiring and firing to be informed of all harassment issues. The accusation would be known to two individuals to make sure that there was no pattern of harassment. I also chose a trusted woman member of the faculty to be one of the designated people that a person could report to along with myself if that made it easier for the individual to make the report.

Keep in mind that the assumption is always that a man is harassing a woman when the reverse is also true. Women harassing men is under reported for most men feel that would result in others seeing them as weak and not manly.

What I found over the years is that usually if there is sexual harassment, there is a pattern of this kind of behavior so without knowing anything about Luis Rubiales, I decided to check him out.

He was accused of having group orgies as well as inappropriate comments to other employees including asking them what color was their underwear.

The Spanish Football Association got it right!

But let me mention a situation at the University of Notre Dame that I have written about and got quite a bit of national attention. What if the eye of the beholder is a mother of a male university student at Notre Dame? During a parents’ weekend, a group of mothers were sitting behind a group of female students who were wearing the tight leggings that are so popular but leave little to the imagination. One of them wrote a letter to the Notre Dame newspaper condemning the wearing of those “sexually provocative pieces of clothing.”

The day after the newspaper was released many of the Notre Dame women donned that attire in protest of the letter. Mothers of EA males told me that they have the “talk” with their sons about sexual harassment and to be careful about their words and actions that may be misinterpreted as sexual harassment. No means no! One mother indicated to me that she talked with her son every Sunday night, and in every phone call, she reminds him to “be on his guard” for this kind of accusation.

It is too bad that his mother, friend, or colleague didn’t express caution to Luis Rubiales to raise his awareness of sexual harassment and the concept of the “eye of the beholder.” Why didn’t his soccer team have a policy to address this issue? In fact, every coed organization should have one. I haven’t seen anywhere that after all of this public attention Rubiales’ organization still doesn’t have a policy. What are they waiting for?

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