Sexual Harassment in the Dominican Republic

Alexia Rodriguez 12-II

I thought it would be one of those days where everything goes my way. My friend and I decided to go to the mall and everything was going smoothly until we were heading down the escalator where I suddenly felt an intense gaze on my body. I started to feel uncomfortable, as if someone were undressing me, making me shift,I  later found out it was a group of guys that were going up the stairs. As they were reaching us I felt the urge to move over to the other side of the stairs, but at that moment one of the guys reached over and stroked his hand against my forearm, a feeling of disgust took over my whole body. 

It felt as if I wanted to throw up at the sight of the part of my body he managed to touch. I stormed down the rest of the stairs after cursing at him, and as I turned back to look for my friend I saw them staring at me, surprised at my reaction. Once I arrived home I went straight to the bathroom to exfoliate the skin that he touched. I scrubbed my arm so hard that it turned red, but it still felt like it wasn’t enough. As I sat on my bed I thought that I was overreacting, “he just touched me, it’s nothing”, but the moment that thought came into my mind I regretted it because no one has the right to touch me in any kind of way without my permission. The fact that I briefly thought about it, shows how normal it is for people to get sexual harassment in this country. It is visible the significance of parents not teaching their kids that no means no and that people are meant to be respected no matter the gender. Then I thought, what would have happened if I didn’t move the moment I saw him getting near me? What part of my body would have he touched?

I started wondering just how frequently this happens, so along with the Bulldogs Journal, I conducted a survey to high school students at New Horizons. We received a total of 86 responses of which 57 were girls. 27.9% were 14 years old and 75.6 % of which had been previously harassed. It was determined that sexual harassment happens too often and being approached inappropriately not a rare occurrence with 53.5% of the subjects admitting that it had happened to them. When asked if the person feels comfortable walking alone in public places a 61.6% answered no. This shows the level of insecurity that exists in the streets of the Dominican Republic, especially for females. 90.7% of students between 13 and 18  haven’t previously sexually offended someone else. Statistics show that the majority of people who commit verbal abuse are over 18 years old. With 34.6% being 18 to 24, 24.4% being 25 to 39, and 14.1% around 40 to 59, according to the survey previously mentioned. 

When asked if a person’s behavior influenced the abuser a 53.5% answered no, 31.4% weren’t sure of their answer, and 15.1% answered yes. Then when asked if a person’s clothing can influence the abusers’ action a 44.2% answer no, 31.4% answer yes, and 24.4% said maybe. This is proof that people believe that the clothes you wear and the way you act in some way contribute to the person’s decision to harass you. Although the majority answered no in both questions when asked if they wanted to change something to prevent that moment from happening and some of the comments talk about how they wouldn’t change the way there were dressed because after all it is there body but sadly it is a factor. Others did mention that clothing is related to the action. Some also expressed that these unnecessary comets are due to a lack of education and respect for the woman’s body. 

There is no doubt that these micro-assaults affect a person’s mental health.

“An experience [with sexual harassment] can either trigger symptoms of depression and anxiety that are new to the person, or it can exacerbate a previous condition that may have been controlled or resolved. Patients may also see a worsening of symptoms,” says Dr. Cullen. “Some research has found that sexual harassment early in one’s career, in particular, can [cause] long-term depressive symptoms.”  And the fact that sexual harassment has become normal in our culture. Since parents and school institutions have never taught children how to respect the human body, regardless of gender. If you normalize what happened to me, it will continue to happen and to some at drastic levels. 

It comes without a doubt that it has become normalized to let situations like this to occur and not to be spoken of. This survey showed that there is a lack of security while walking in public places, minors are often harassed and approached inappropriately by adults. The Dominican Republic has had this mentality in which they believe that the clothing they’re wearing or their actions can cause these microaggressions made on the street.

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