General Question

wildpotato's avatar

What is the deciding factor for you to report someone for harrassment or assault?

Asked by wildpotato (14903points) October 9th, 2012

I had a negative physical interaction with a large male student yesterday (I am small and female) on campus, and I don’t know if I want to make a big deal out of it or not. It wasn’t anything sexual or injurious, but it did make me feel…not unsafe, exactly, but suddenly less than totally safe in my school, for the first time ever. Definitely a disquieting experience.

If any of you have experienced something that you decided to report or made you consider making a report, would you share your thoughts with me? Obviously every situation is different, but I need a starting point here.

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49 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

I would mention it to a dean or the campus police (or whoever the appropriate person is), without using the words “harrassment” or “assault.”

Be descriptive, but do get it on record.

If he accosts you again, you can mention that you have reported the incident to Dean X or Sergeant Y,

KNOWITALL's avatar

Yes you do need to report it, not make a big deal of it.

As a person who has filed in-house charges on someone in a position much higher than mine, you have to say something in case it happens again, so they’ll believe it.

If this guy hurts someone else, you’d feel like total crap. Just tell them exactly what happened and do not elaborate or anything, just the facts and how it made you feel should be enough.

If in doubt, pray about it or ask your parents.

marinelife's avatar

Just describe the incident to someone on the campus poilice force and let them characterize it. The deciding line was: were you made to feel uncomfortable or unsafe. You say that you were.

Err on the side of caution. Report it.

augustlan's avatar

I agree with all of the above. Report the incident, not with an eye toward pressing official charges against him, but get it on record. What happened, how it made you feel.

CWOTUS's avatar

“Negative physical interaction” tells me exactly nothing, except that it was apparently something that you didn’t like and was in some way corporeal. But that covers a lot of ground, and it doesn’t put any of the blame for this interaction on him, which is the first thing that needs to be clear if there is to be a complaint filed, I would think.

lightsourcetrickster's avatar

Thank you @CWOTUS, I spent aaaaaages figuring out the pros and cons of this one and you just nailed exactly what I wanted to say in a single paragraph….but here’s my 2 cents worth.

I must admit that I too have a problem with the determining of the definitive solution to this problem – and I am extremely disturbed by the answers that just seem to be on the “report it” side of things (in particular, one certainly gets my attention but I’ll skip naming names). Rather than people saying “hmm…now what was it that happened, if it’s not sexual and not injurious, then what gives?” people seem to have just jumped on the “slam foot down regardless” bandwagon, and I think this is detrimental to anyone who doesn’t know the in’s and out’s of the situation, which clearly none of us do. This is not fair on either the person who posted the question, and certainly not fair on the person who made the mistake of interacting with her in what the questioner considers to be inappropriate – how do we know others would not necessarily see it the same way?
Until this is clarified I feel that we are ill-prepared or indeed ‘qualified’ to provide discourse as to an appropriate plan of action.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Frankly I think as a small woman in any kind of forced interaction with a large male, she needs to report it. Many men still think it’s their right to dominate the weaker sex, in the workplace and out. Not on my watch it won’t.

jca's avatar

I would like a clearer idea of what happened. Was he yelling? Was he standing close to the OP, in her face? Was he pointing or waving his arms around? Did he say something upsetting?

lightsourcetrickster's avatar

And at what point @KNOWITALL, did it occur to you that this was a forced interaction? I see no mention of it being in there, not even by implication.

KNOWITALL's avatar

It makes me extremely angry to hear all the questions about whether she should report something that made her feel unsafe on campus.

Do you realize that an innocent pigtail tug, can turn malicious and painful with a few more pounds of pressure from a large male?

Do you realize that alone on campus a large male could pull this girl into the bushes, cover her whole face with one hand and rape her in the daytime?


Bellatrix's avatar

I agree with @lightsourcetrickster, we do need to know more about what happened. It does sound as though it should be reported but I would prefer to have more information before saying that with certainty.

blueiiznh's avatar

The starting point is exactly as stated above:
Getting it on record is the starting point. If it is happening to you, it is more than likely happening to someone else.
Do yourself and others the justice of documenting.
This has to be the starting point

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Definately report it to the police. Any guy that tries something like that is scary.

Bellatrix's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe what did he do? What is this “scary” thing? Did he stand close to her, his elbow nudged her and she felt threatened? Did he push her aggressively? Did bump into her and not apologise? What happened here?

Once this is put on record, this young man either deservedly or not, has a report against him that he in some way intimidated a woman on campus. Even if the evidence eventually shows it was unfounded, mud sticks. So, before I say ‘report it’, I want to know what ‘it’ is. I have a son and I would be horrified if he was reported to the police for something he did not do and was an overreaction by someone. I see complaints from people often. It is not unusual to investigate and and there is no case. It is an overreaction or a misinterpretation.

If we are being asked for advice, let’s at least gather some real information before we give it. If the young man intimidated her, he should be reported. Let’s find out what he did before making that call.

lightsourcetrickster's avatar

I would rather know the fine points of the actual events warranting the call for a complaint to be filed, than just risk all consequences and send the poor girl off to war all guns blazing under the feminist flag, only to come out the loser because nothing happened as a result of it.
We cannot be judge, jury and executioner on this position until – as has already been stated by both myself and my more learned friend @Bellatrix – we know the FACTS. The facts are what win court cases, the facts are what enable actions to be taken based on complaints filed, and the facts are more important than just lodging a complaint on a whim based on being disquieted. I can assure you, if this were a more serious issue, then fine it would be a matter for more immediate action, but we. do. not. know. the. facts. Doing this in a “just in case” manner would be akin to fusing two chemicals together in the quiet self-assurance that they aren’t volatile once mixed, despite all facts pointing out quite the opposite.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Bellatrix What’s scary is the guy physically intimidated her. A guy that would do that, use his strength against a woman, is scary to me.

Bellatrix's avatar

@adirondakwannabe, please explain to me what he actually did to intimidate her. Give me the details that make you so sure this is what happened.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Bellatrix A negative physical interaction and I felt less than safe?

lightsourcetrickster's avatar

Read, inwardly digest, and let’s go over this one more time.

The OP writes:

“I had a negative physical interaction with a large male student yesterday (I am small and female) on campus, and I don’t know if I want to make a big deal out of it or not. It wasn’t anything sexual or injurious, but it did make me feel…not unsafe, exactly, but suddenly less than totally safe in my school, for the first time ever. Definitely a disquieting experience.”

What was this physical interaction. Can we say it was truly intimidating seeing as we don’t know exactly what that interaction was?

She states and I quote (twice in the same post as well) “it did make me feel… not unsafe, exactly , but suddenly less than totally safe in my school, for the first time ever.”

We have here an undecided level of assured sense of security. She is neither completely safe, or completely unsafe. Uncertain of safety is one thing, but feeling entirely deprived of security in any way, shape or form would be an immediate cause for concern.

Still we have no idea as to what this guy is supposed to have done.

Yet still I see people firing first without asking questions prior to the fact. THAT’S what’s scary to me.

This world – it seems to me – is fast becoming something of an all too over the top safety cushion that employs people who are so maddeningly concerned about the slightest issue that if that slightest issue points to even a hint of a problem then immediate remedial action must be taken. This to me seems to be the entirely wrong attitude to adopt. If it’s one that you happen to adopt yourselves I won’t hold it against you obviously, but needless to say, I do disagree with it.

So…..questions to ask yourself @wildpotato

1. What did he do that you had a problem with specifically?

2. Does he – to your knowledge – do the same thing to anyone else and how do they consider it to affect them? Do they feel the same way about it that you do?

3. This interaction that you had a problem with? What did you say to him during your time spent with him, before this interaction occurred? Do you think that what you said may have played some part in this interaction?

4. Do you feel that if this is normal to those others, that it may be a misunderstanding between you that can be sorted out without the need for a higher level of intervention by filing a complaint?


NEGATIVE definition….

A word or statement that expresses denial, disagreement, or refusal: “she replied in the negative”.

In this particular case, a negative physical interaction would be an interaction with which the OP was uncomfortable. It is not indicative of forced interaction.

Bellatrix's avatar

@adirondakwannabe. That could mean he was running about, bumped into her, and didnt apologise. Was the intent to scare her? I dont have that info. Sorry for lack of apostrophes. On phone and cant make them appear.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Bellatrix Okay. let’s look into it a bit more and discuss it tommorrow.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@wildpotato Can you fill out the details for us on what happened?

lightsourcetrickster's avatar

I think @adirondakwannabe it may be safe to assume we are not likely to discover those details either here or by PM. If anyone would care to venture forth and send a PM requesting details whilst not making them public knowledge on a grand scale here then that could be a workable idea….I have already done that myself – and despite assurances that those details would not be made known here in the wide open of this thread, have received no reply. I only requested those details once, and that is how it shall remain. Maybe if @Bellatrix could try to find out – seeing as she is not only woman but also one in a more than capable capacity of answering this question (what being a Mother an’ all), we may then have a solution.

Bellatrix's avatar

@lightsourcetrickster, I feel it is up to the poster to decide whether to supply more details. I understand your intentions in suggesting I send a private message but we have asked for more info here, it @wildpotato wants to add more info I feel sure she will. I just can’t answer this question without more info.

lightsourcetrickster's avatar

I concur wholeheartedly @Bellatrix. Given that it looks like it may not be very forthcoming, I’m of the conclusion that we’re at a complete and utter stalemate and the ball lies firmly in the OP’s court.

augustlan's avatar

Perhaps @wildpotato just isn’t online at the moment, and can offer some clarification later.

lightsourcetrickster's avatar

@augustlan….that certainly is a possibility – good point.

CWOTUS's avatar

Well. Without details, I’ll speculate on “what it would take”, which was, after all, the question posed.

I guess I’d have to be clear on intent. If I were a smallish woman and a guy “ran into” me and maybe knocked me down, for example, then I’d have to decide, was it “accidentally on purpose”, or was he clumsy or did he slip or just not pay attention to what he was doing?

And continuing with that example, even if he apparently had no intent to harm or even delay me, was he so abjectly careless that even in all innocence he was a menace to me or others?

If he had intent, was it a more or less harmless ploy to try to “meet” me (without, say, knocking me down, but just playing the “you first, no, you first” dance in a hallway that we all get involved with, sometimes playfully), or was he more aggressive? That, again, involves reading intent, which might happen in a flash.

So I guess if I was the smallish woman and I was made to feel in any way “unsafe”, then I’d try to recollect as much objective fact “this is what anyone could have seen” about the event and report that to whoever seemed most appropriate: campus police if I had no idea who the guy even was (was he a townie trying to sell drugs, for example? or was he an assistant professor whom I had “seen around” but didn’t know? did he appear to be high or stoned? that sort of thing); or maybe the Department Head if he seemed to be a faculty type. But I would try to keep out all mention of “I felt” out of this report.

The report should be “what happened”, and then it’s on file for follow-up in case… something escalates, maybe.

Good luck with your campus experience, @wildpotato. I didn’t want to make light of your feeling of un-safeness, and I do hope that whatever you do not only makes you feel safer and more empowered, but actually does make you safer. (The two aren’t always the same.)

wildpotato's avatar

Hey y’all, thanks for your interest! As @augustlan guessed, I was not online for a bit there.

I left the details vague on purpose because I wasn’t actually looking for advice about what to do. That sort of conversation can (as we have discovered) turn into a shit show real easy here on Fluther, and I don’t find it super helpful to make use of the site in that way. Which is not to say that I didn’t find your answers helpful – this was a good starting point for me to think about my problem, as it turned out.

What I requested was personal stories of similar experiences, because I find that absorbing other peoples’ stories is a great way for to learn, and can make me think of new things or think in a way I hadn’t before.

So I figured the details were a bit beside the point and would just lead us off track. But since you asked:

The guy and I exited the elevator at the same time, walking at the same pace. I was on his left, but needed to go towards the right, and turned slightly to walk in front of him. At the same time, he apparently needed to go left, and shoved me out of his way with moderate force. I said, “What the fuck, douchebag,” and we both continued on our way. I was not injured, and I do not think his intent was to injure me.

So no, not a big thing really, especially in comparison to what we generally think of as qualifying as harassment or assault. But…to experience this in my building, from a fellow student, really sucked. Part of the reason I wasn’t sure whether to report it is because I wanted to make sure I wasn’t reporting out of anger or revenge, because I think that would be both wrong and unjust. But after a few days – yeah, it still feels really crappy, and that guy needs anger counseling. If you’re a 200-lb dude, there’s no call to be shoving a chick around. And just because I can’t do anything about it when a giant asshole walks over me in Columbus Circle doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do something about it if it happens in my building. Furthermore, I’ve been taught that it’s not the intent of the action but how it was received that makes for a “negative physical interaction,” and so when I realized it wasn’t a desire for revenge but a genuine feeling of discomfort that made me want to report him, the idea began to seem reasonable to me. And as students who sign a code of conduct upon acceptance to the university, we are held to standards that forbid this sort of thing explicitly.

So I reported it this afternoon. I did not, as @gailcalled wisely suggested, use the words “harassment” or “assault”, but just described the incident the way I did just now to you guys, and I included my hot-headed response or fairness’ sake. The security guys were awesome, and took me seriously, which makes me think I did the right thing. Gotta love retired NYPD; they’re so sweet to ladies. Unfortunately the dude was not swiped in correctly, so they could not identify him. I might see him next week when we all queue up for the elevators again, and they suggested that I point him out to the desk guards then. Maybe I’ll do that. I’d like to give him the chance to apologize and explain about whatever horrible subway ride he took just beforehand, but honestly it’d frighten me to talk to him.

Bellatrix's avatar

Okay, this is my response to your original question now I have the detail. I am not judging your decision to report it. I am purely saying what I would have done. I would not have reported this. It doesn’t sound to me (from what you have written here) as though he intentionally pushed you across the corridor. It sounds as though he nudged you out of the way. I would have put it down to some guy severely lacking manners and yes, I would have thought he was a rude idiot, but I wouldn’t have involved the campus security people. If it had been intentional and I felt he had deliberately meant to hurt me or he had hurt me physically, I would have reported it. Thank you for providing the detail.

wildpotato's avatar

@Bellatrix Funny you just started typing as I did. Wanted to ask – if your son did something like this, if you would think it an overreaction (assuming that we believe my impression, which I will clarify below) for it to be reported.

He absolutely did it deliberately and aggressively. It was not a nudge, and it made me stagger a step sideways.

Even so – I’m still wavering on the overreaction question. Maybe I should just be the bigger person and not let it bother me. Even if he needs anger counseling, it’s not like I think that by this action I ought to judge that he’s a danger to the female population. He shouldn’t have done that, but is it my place to tell him? Then again – everything I posted above…

chyna's avatar

Is it possible that he was going at a good clip and as you said you were crossing each other and perhaps he was making some sort of grab or put his hands out to keep from knocking you down? I’m just trying to understand why someone would do this. Could you have misunderstood what happened? I’m not saying you did, just asking if it is possible.

Bellatrix's avatar

@wildpotato your use of the terms assault and harassment earlier in the thread had people suggesting you had been threatened in some way. One member even mentioned rape. I don’t get that from this situation. I see bad manners.

Yes, I agree his behaviour could be construed as aggressive. However, you yourself said you “turned slightly to walk in front of him. At the same time, he apparently needed to go left, and shoved me out of his way with moderate (my emphasis) force.” Not great. Not behaviour I would expect from my son, but not what I would call assault or harassment. Your moderate might be his light. Some people really just don’t know their own strength. It sounds as though you got in each other’s way.

Really though, only you can make this call. You were there. Your original post suggested something far worse than your later description details. Hence my need for more information.
If you feel his behaviour warranted a complaint, that’s what matters. You did what you felt was right and nobody here can really say what is right for you and determine yes, that’s right or no, that’s wrong.

wildpotato's avatar

@chyna Sure, anything’s possible. Just wrote a term paper on Rashomon, actually, so I’m pretty squishy on the intersection of perception, memory and accuracy at the moment. But I am subjectively certain that it was intentionally aggressive and meant to be threatening. Perhaps one would have to live or work in Manhattan to understand, but things like moving speedily around people who innocently get into your way without looking and just…being territorial in general is way more hyped up and subconsciously important here. People who have been patient all day with being constantly drawn up short can just snap eventually. I’ve seen people scream at each other for the smallest things, and I can understand it because I feel that way too, much of the time. I thought George Costanza was an hypbole until I moved here – but he’s depressingly accurate. This isn’t even close to the first time this exact thing has happened to me, just the first time it happened on campus. So I can understand why this guy was frustrated that I got in his way. However, to deliberately push me out of the way is unacceptable, if only because I cannot possibly push back. Excusing him because I got in his way just as he got in mine does not work for me.

@Bellatrix If he does not know his own strength, that is doubly frightening and I was right to report him before he “lightly” shoves someone else. I disagree that my original post suggested something worse, or that you required more information in order to answer my original question. I was not interested in whether anyone thought I ought to complain, but only in whether they ever had and what their reasons were for doing so.

And now I am in the conversation I wanted to avoid. As you say, only he and I can judge what really happened. Sorry for being snappish – I know you both as kind people who mean well – but cmon, really? I give the details and the first thing anyone says is to claim that I am probably mistaken? Oy vey.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I stand by my original call. This guy is scary. Any guy that would shove a much smaller person out of his way is scary. That’s not good behavior.

Aethelwine's avatar

If anyone feels threatened they should tell someone. Unfortunately many women keep these things to themselves (I have done this myself) and men (or women) continue on with their inappropriate behavior.

I think you did the right thing @wildpotato.)

Bellatrix's avatar

@wildpotato please read your title again. I would also ask, if you were both walking down the corridor along side each other you on his left and you need to turn to the right, couldn’t you have stopped and let him pass then turned? Isn’t it also rude to cut across his path? Anyway, I’m out.

Aethelwine's avatar

of course it is the victims fault.~ (sorry, but that was handed to me)

wildpotato's avatar

@Bellatrix I guess I’m confused about how you are reading my title – I wrote, “What is the deciding factor for you to report someone.” If it can it be interpreted to be asking what I should do, I am having trouble seeing how, but if it was unclear, then it was unclear, and it makes no sense for me to try to argue you out of your reaction. My bad – I’ll edit the wording more next time (although I did put some thought into the wording here) if I ever ask a Q this sensitive again :)

Yes, it is rude to cut across another person’s path, and I am sure that this is what angered him. I could have dropped back. But so could he. Unfortunately we two found ourselves in a situation where one of us had to cut across. But in any event, the correct response to rudeness is not physical violence.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@wildpotato I was always taught consideration of the other person comes first. If we had to cross I would defer to you, not push you out of the way. If this is how he solves a casual encounter how will he respond in a stressful encounter?

lightsourcetrickster's avatar

The sad truth is that what you are taught @Adirondackwannabe is not what everyone else might also be taught. It might not be even what the OP was taught, or the guy was taught. I was taught the same as you, but where I live a lot of people are so very ignorant that they will try to walk through you.

CWOTUS's avatar

This whole incident seems to have been escalated way past any point of sense. It’s like you’re both posturing to see who can be more harmful to the other now, and you’ve escalated to “official sanctions” and potential threats to his future career. Oh, this won’t end badly.

From the description you gave, it seems he acted rudely. Of course, that’s your side of the story. He may have memories that differ, or at least a different story. But let’s say he tells the same story, and… he was rude.

That hardly qualifies as “physical violence”, no matter how you attempt to characterize it as such. Yes, it is force, and his inertia and his rudeness overrode your (apparent) rudeness and smaller stature. If you’re going to play with fire, and rude-on-rude is one way to do it, then you’ll find that you get burned occasionally. “Force” does not necessarily equate to “violence”.

Another incorrect response to rudeness is calling in the law. If you start to feel less safe around this guy after he’s had a talking-to by security (and maybe the dean of students), please don’t speculate aloud about “why, oh why is this happening to me?”

Face it – you were both rude to each other, and he got the better of you this time because of size and leverage. Go cut someone off in traffic if you feel a need to “get even”. I’m not immune to this sort of thing. I can act like a jackass, too, sometimes. But when I get my comeuppance I take it like a man, too. Even a woman can do that. I also learn to try to control my impulse to be a jackass, and women can definitely do that. That’s my suggestion.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I agree now that calling in the law would probably be a mistake. Write this one off to rudeness and stay away from this jerk if you can. i don’t think there’s much of a criminal case.

lightsourcetrickster's avatar

If you didn’t want advice then you shouldn’t have included the nature of your personal predicament in the details, surely? Personally, I don’t consider reporting him to have been the appropriate course of action when it appears to be that you were both in the wrong.

I think I too will leave this post for further picking to pieces by any others who would care to do so.

wildpotato's avatar

@CWOTUS Actually, that does count as physical violence, at least according to the retired NYPD I spoke with.

Good call with the leaving the thread thing, all. This is so boring and unhelpful, I’m gonna go watch Roseanne reruns instead.

Patton's avatar

I just want to take a moment to savor the irony that the people getting all fussy about not making assumptions are actually the one’s who made all the assumptions by assuming this question was asking for advice. I won’t name names, but you know who you are. Way to let your self-righteousness blow up in your faces.

To answer the actual question, the deciding factor for me would be intent. If I think someone was trying to harass, assault, or physically intimidate me, I would report it. If someone is just being a dick, I’d let it go. It’s not a crime to be a dick, and the way to discourage dickery isn’t by being petty or vengeful.

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