Wry Exchange

Sexual Harassment of FES
12-28-07, 10:31 pm
Filed under: Exchange Program, Exchange Students | Tags: , , ,

 The safety and well-being of students should always be the first priority.  All exchange student programs should have harassment policies.   This is the policy my program follows. 

 Sexual abuse: Sexual abuse refers to engaging in implicit or explicit sexual acts with a student, or forcing or encouraging a student to engage in implicit or explicit sexual acts alone or with another person of any age, of the same sex or the opposite sex. Additional examples of sexual abuse could include, but are not limited to: Non-touching offenses; Indecent exposure; Exposing a child to sexual or pornographic material.
Sexual harassment: Sexual harassment refers to sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. In some cases, sexual harassment precedes sexual abuse and is a technique used by sexual predators to desensitize or “groom” their victims. Examples of sexual harassment could include, but are not limited to: Sexual advances; Sexual epithets, jokes, written or oral references to sexual conduct, gossip regarding one’s sex life, and comments about an individual’s sexual activity, deficiencies, or prowess; Verbal abuse of a sexual nature; Displaying sexually suggestive objects, pictures or drawings Sexual leering or whistling, any inappropriate physical contact such as brushing or touching, obscene language or gestures and suggestive or insulting comments.
Is it Abuse or is it Harassment? Whether the alleged conduct amounts to sexual abuse or sexual harassment is not to be determined by the adult to whom allegations are made. After ensuring the safety of the student, all allegations should be immediately reported to appropriate law enforcement authorities. In some countries, this reporting is required by law.
Allegation Reporting Guidelines For use by all adults to whom a student reports an incident of abuse or harassment. Any adult to whom a student reports an incident of sexual abuse or harassment is responsible for following these Allegation Reporting Guidelines.
1. Report from Student
a. Listen attentively and stay calm. Acknowledge that it takes a lot of courage to report abuse. It is appropriate to listen and be encouraging. Do not express shock, horror or disbelief
b. Assure privacy but not confidentiality. Explain that you will have to tell someone about the abuse/harassment to make it stop and to ensure that it doesn’t happen to other students
c. Get the facts, but don’t interrogate. Ask the student questions that establish what was done and who did it. Reassure the student that s/he did the right thing in telling you. Avoid asking ‘why’ questions. Remember your responsibility is to present the student’s story to the proper authorities
d. Be non-judgmental and reassure the student. Do not be critical of anything that has happened or anyone who may be involved. It is especially important not to blame or criticize the student. Assure the student that the situation was not their fault and that they were brave and mature to come to you
e. Record- Keep a written record of the conversation with the student as soon after the report as you can, including the date and time of the conversation. Use the student’s words, and record only what has been told to you.
2. Protect the Student
Ensure the safety and well-being of the student. Remove the student from the situation immediately and all contact with the alleged abuser or harasser. Give reassurance that this is for the student’s own safety and is not a punishment
3. Report to Appropriate Law Enforcement Authorities. Immediately report all cases of sexual abuse or harassment to the appropriate law enforcement authorities first and then to program leadership for investigation.
4. Avoid Gossip and Blame. Do not tell anyone about the report other than those required by the guidelines. Care must be taken to protect the rights of both the victim and the accused during the investigation.
5. Do Not Challenge the Alleged Offender.  The adult to whom the student reports must not contact the alleged offender. In cases of abuse, interrogation must be left entirely to law enforcement authorities.
6. Follow-Up. After reporting allegations to the counselor or area program chair, follow up to make sure steps are being taken to address the situation. Specifically, we will conduct an independent and thorough investigation into any claims of sexual abuse or harassment. Any adult against whom an allegation of sexual abuse or harassment is made will be removed from all contact with youth until the matter is resolved.
Post Report Procedures. The student’s counselor and the area program chair chair are responsible for ensuring that the following steps are taken immediately following an abuse allegation is reported.
1. The adult to whom the student reports the abuse should follow the Allegation Reporting Guidelines.
2. Confirm that the student has been removed from the situation immediately and all contact with alleged abuser or harasser.
3. Contact appropriate law enforcement agency immediately (if not already done). If law enforcement agencies will not investigate, the area program chair should coordinate an independent investigation into the allegations.
4. Ensure the student receives immediate support services.
5. Offer the student an independent counselor to represent the interests of the student. Ask social services or law enforcement to recommend someone who is not in any way involved with the program.
6. Contact the student’s parents or legal guardian. If away from home, provide the student with the option of either staying in country or returning home.
7. Remove alleged abuser or harasser from all contact with the specific student and other youth while investigations are conducted.
9. The student’s counselor should inform the area program chair of the allegation. The area program chair must inform headquarters of the allegation within 72 hours, and provide follow-up reports of steps taken, the outcome of all investigations, and resulting actions.
Follow up care: There will need to be a cohesive and managed team approach to supporting the student after an allegation report. The student is likely to feel embarrassed, confused, and may become withdrawn and appear to be avoiding members of the host family or club. After a report of harassment or abuse, students may or may not want to remain on their exchange. If they do, they may or may not want to continue their relationship with their counselor depending on the circumstances. In some cases, a student may wish to remain in country, but change to a different area. It may be difficult for counselors and host families to understand how the student is feeling, but it would be helpful for the student to know that the counselor remains a support for them. Counselors and host families may experience ambiguity toward their roles and may feel unclear regarding their boundaries. However they need to do whatever is necessary to reassure the student of their support at all times.


2 Comments so far
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What to do about the student who makes a false allegation in order to manipulate people? It only takes an allegation to ruin a reputation by casting doubt and even get law enforcement (and in the case of exchange students, the State Department) involved. In the 3 days before a total recant/confession of false allegations and reasons for making them was made, the situation took a life of its own because of the necessary precautions in place to protect youth. Rather than being returned to the native country, the student was moved to another area due to pressure from the natural family. The accused host family is left to deal with the fall out and doubts about their reputation. This is a terrible thing all the way around for the falsely accused family and for people who ARE harassed or abused who may not be believed as readily because of those who make false allegations to be malicious.

Comment by hostmom

Wow. We’ve never had a false sexual harassment accusation in my small program. Our program has volunteers who spend hours each week with the kids. We don’t just check on them via phone or email once a month.

For us, it’s easy to tell that the kids are telling us the truth. They’ll tell one person, and the kid is ALWAYS upset and usually embarassed and confused. We also move the student if they are unhappy or the family is unhappy, no one has to make up reasons.

We keep sexual harassment info on a ‘need to know’ basis, so the neighbors and community don’t know. I have no interest in ruining someone’s life.

Three days isn’t much time. We would still be gathering facts at that point. If we determined the student had lied, the student would be terminated. The student’s natural family does not tell us how to run the program. They signed their child over to us for the year.

Comment by Wry

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