Resources available for sexual harassment victims
Matt Thompson, Staff Reporter - November 14, 2012
Following a recent controversy surrounding a professor on campus, Central Washington University Office for Equal Opportunity and the Wellness Center reassured the campus resources and help are available for victims of sexual harassment.
“We are here to listen,” said Staci Sleigh-Layman, director of the Office for Equal Opportunity. “We are here to educate individuals.”
A policy statement is available on the OEO’s website that defines sexual harassment, as well as outlines the procedure should allegations, formal or informal, be made against a Central faculty member.
According to the online policy statement, sexual harassment is “defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.”
Responsibility for educating the campus community lies on the shoulders of Sleigh-Layman is. Central employees receive training every three years on the subject of sexual harassment, she said.
The policy is taught to students during Wildcat Weekend freshmen year and later during class visits by OEO staff.
“I probably do 15 to 20 classes a year, you know, where you go into women studies or you go into psych,” Sleigh-Layman said. “So we’re educating students.”
The Office for Equal Opportunity is also where students should make formal complaints against any campus employee. Sleigh-Layman is charged with the duty to investigate any allegations against faculty members and report back to that individual’s supervisor or appointment committee.
“My job is to make decisions about the credibility of the complaint, so did I find evidence of sexual harassment or at least discrimination?” Sleigh-Layman said. “My job is not discipline or what to do with the employee if we found they’ve acted badly.”
Sexual assault victims can be found in the Wellness Center where Andrea Easlick, Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, can counsel students through the process.
Easlick’s “job is to...help guide the student to the proper channels where the student can get assistance or find relief,” said Lynne Harrison, Wellness Center coordinator.
Although sexual assault is a priority of the Wellness Center, Harrison also encourages students struggling with any form of harassment to come in for a visit.
“I can’t emphasize enough…everything that happens here is confidential,” Harrison said, “so that student will be protected.”
Still, people and the resources to resolve incidents, some students are unsure where to turn for help if they find themselves in a situation of sexual misconduct.
“I wouldn’t even know where to begin,” Jennifer Herdmann, post baccalaureate biology, said.
Studies have shown that sexual harassment stems from an abuse of authority rather than the lust of an individual.
“Sexual harassment is not about sex,” Sleigh-Layman said. “ Its about power.”