MCHS’s hidden Issue: sexual Harassment


Maria Peralta

What sexual harassment feels like.

Middle College is the ideal school: a close, tight-knit community with friendly teachers, amazing students, and thorough college readiness. It’s the best that Santa Ana has to offer! We get told that it is “like a family” here, and in many ways, it is. Yet, in other ways, it is far from that.

Beneath it all, there is a problem that I and many others have been the victim of: sexual harassment.
You wouldn’t expect this type of behavior from students here. We’re supposed to be “mature,” “kind,” and “responsible,” right? Isn’t that why we got into this school in the first place? Despite that, in a poll of 82 students, 19.4% believe it is a problem, 19.5% have been sexually harassed, and 28% have seen it happen to others, all on campus by another MCHS student. Those numbers may seem a little low, but as low as they may be, any percentage at all is a problem.

I’ve seen it all: rumors, jokes, derogatory names, inappropriate gestures, unwanted sexual advances, and sexual comments. In more severe cases, girls have been hugged to “get a feel of” their breasts, been victims of jokes about being drugged, and have had sensitive information leaked about them. People are reduced to their body parts or the things they’ve done. They’re put on the spot, turned into a laughing stock for others to gawk and ogle at, all at their expense. “Anything and everything gets talked about,” said a student. “They have no limits.” In my experience, I’ve received nicknames over the size of my breasts and gestures that implied sexual acts towards me. I was uncomfortable as if my body had become something that I do not own. I’m not the only one who has experienced something like this. It isn’t even just towards girls; guys can be a victim of sexual harassment, too.

Middle College is the perfect breeding ground for this. It prides itself in being small, but that allows rumors and toxicity to form, spread, and linger more than it would in any other school. Word gets around quick, after all. Everyone knows everyone’s business; if the littlest semblance of drama happens, people will find out one way or another. Once people know about something, it sticks, and they’ll use it against you. It creates not only an environment of “he said, she said,” but also one where anyone who speaks up will be ridiculed.

I’ve been told that I will eventually “get used to” this behavior. I’ve been told that it’s just “boy talk,” “dumb jokes,” or “they don’t mean it,” from both boys AND girls. I’ve heard every justification and excuse on the planet, yet none is enough to justify the damage it does. They cannot hide behind the cover of ignorance. Time and time again, from kinder to now and quite possibly for the rest of their lives, it is going to be drilled into their heads that sexual harassment is wrong, especially in this time and age. They know that how could they not by now? Despite that, for whatever reason, they willfully choose to ignore it.

As wrong as their actions are, in a way aren’t we in part culpable for the things they do? We form bonds with them, laughing along and sitting idly by while they harass others. We normalize this behavior by doing nothing about it and giving them our friendship, allowing them the power to do it. They’re our friends, but a friend or not, we’re at fault for letting it happen by not saying anything. The fact that they’re our friends means nothing; it does not excuse this vile behavior. “We’re all bystanders to this…no one is going to tell on the guy,” said a student.

I want to mention that people like this are not necessarily bad, they just do bad things. What they say and do isn’t exactly thought through. Mob mentality takes them over, blurring their sense of morality. Individually, they’re perfectly fine; it’s when they’re together that this happens. It’s all an elaborate ploy to show off to each other, as if it’s a competition to see who can come up with the edgiest, most out there joke. People become so blinded by their egos and their need to fit in that the victim is left utterly helpless with no choice but to simply take it. “When it happens, the people are in big groups,” a female student said. “It’s hard to reason with them because it’s like talking to a big wall. They don’t take us seriously.”

A question arises from this: what does MCHS do about sexual harassment? “It depends on the severity and level of sexual harassment,” Principal Mr. Voight said. “We can have a talk with those people. If it is ongoing or over various forms of social media and in school, you can look at suspension, and you can look at removal from the school and the program.” In the most severe forms, Voight said that “it would be a call for me to call in the police.” Voight also had something to say to anyone who sexually harassed another person: “Stop…It will not be tolerated here. Rethink how you’re interacting with people. Everything we do here is based on two things: going to college and having a career. Sexual harassment will stop either of those two things from happening.”

If you have the power and bravery to do something about sexual harassment, do it! In the words of Voight: “The number one way to stop harassment is to say something about it.” Change starts with you, no matter how small the gesture is. Stand up for yourself or for others who cannot. You may say it’s not your business, but if it were happening to someone close to you, you wouldn’t be saying that. It’s 100% everybody’s business, because, while it may seem small now, behavior like this can develop into something far more sinister if left unchecked. At the very least, I hope others can become just a little more aware of what problems lie beneath our school.

If you believe I am talking about you, I am. You are the problem.