A Friendly Hug or Sexual Harassment

BROWNSVILLE, TX - In the Rio Grande Valley a common way to say hello is with a handshake, a hug, or a kiss. We asked local experts at UTRGV and Friendship of Women if cultural norms such as the affectionate greetings were considered was considered a form of sexual harassment and the response was yes.

Evonne Lopez, Primary Prevention Educator at Friendship of Women tells us it all comes down to consent. She says, “We can’t really assume or imply that these touches or behaviors are wanted unless we ask.”

So what should you do if someone tries to hug you or kiss you without consent? Immediately let them know that you were not comfortable with it. Otherwise it may go unreported and the person doing the harassment may remain unaware of their actions. Even though you think you may not need to report, you may be encouraging inappropriate behavior.

“A lot of time the receiver and the giver don’t see harassment as the same thing. And so, it’s really important for the person receiving sexual harassment to be vocal and say I’m not comfortable with it.” says Camilla Montoya, Lecturer at UTRGV.

Speak up and be clear. Women may be more likely to experience sexual advances in the workplace; however, it can also happen to men. If you are unsure if you are making someone uncomfortable make sure ask before making any advancements.

Douglas Stones, Representative from the office of Student Rights and Responsibilities at UTRGV suggests, “Even though it may be culturally acceptable to give a hug or a kiss on the cheek, is the other person receptive of that? So even asking, ‘would you mind if I gave you a hug.’”

In short, it’s all about consent. Be being clear with what you’re comfortable with.

Evonne Lopez tells us that consent is explicitly stated. She says it is “not silence, it’s not assumed. it’s not implied.”

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, last year approximately 12,860 sex based harassment allegations were filed.  That’s more than twice the population of Port Isabel.

Some say that number is low and could be explained with victims never reporting their incidents.


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