If you are a student reading this, you probably giggled at the title of this post.
Is she kidding? I bet you are still wondering.
You are not alone in your thoughts.
During one of my school visits to an all-girls secondary school in Abuja last November, I received similar feedback when I told the students that tapping current is sexual harassment.
Most of the students genuinely thought that tapping current is a playful activity, and people who engage in such activity do so as a joke.
But, in light of ongoing conversations on sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape in Nigeria, I thought I’ll take a moment to share a few thoughts on the topic.
My hope is that moving forward, we will reflect on how we can all join in efforts to end sexual harassment in schools and in our communities.
1: Tapping Current is Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment is defined as “unwelcome advances of a sexual nature, occurring through verbal, physical, or virtual interaction”.
It is important to highlight the word unwelcome because it is harassment when the person subjected to the behaviour does not willingly welcome the behaviour.
When I asked the girls at this particular school I visited last year to define tapping current, one of the students gave what I thought was a comprehensive response.
She said, “Tapping current is when a boy touches a girl’s private parts to derive pleasure”.
I went further to ask them to give examples of tapping current, and I got some very interesting responses.
One of the students said, “It’s when a guy brushes against your private part”.
Another said, “It’s when a guy asks you to sit on his lap”.
Another girl said, “It’s when your neighbour takes your electricity without your permission”, to which the whole class burst into laughter.
We will cut the girl with the last response some slacks, and assume that there are people who genuinely have not experienced “tapping current” in Nigerian parlance.
As a secondary school student, I vividly recall boys tapping current.
It was a very common expression and they often made a jest of it.
In my recollection of the times this happened, the girls were often caught unawares.
And after it happens the guys often laughed it off.
I don’t also remember any student reporting the incident, and so there was never any consequence for the action.
I should mention that it was always the boys that tapped the girls’ current.
2: Any Gender Can Sexually Harass
In the course on my interaction with students, I have found that there is a common misconception that sexual harassment can only be perpetrated by the male gender on the female gender.
That is incorrect.
While the majority of cases are perpetrated by males against females, males are not the sole culprits.
Females can sexually harass males, females can sexually harass females, and males can sexually harass males as well.
Sexual harassment is rooted in power imbalance, and perpetrators often prey on people they consider as ‘weak’ or vulnerable.
Our culture of silence has also helped to normalize this behaviour and emboldened perpetrators who often think there will be no penalty for their actions.
3: No Means No
When a girl or a boy says no to your advances, it means no.
It means they do not consent to your advances.
It does not mean they want you to try harder.
It doesn’t mean come back on a sunny day.
It means No.
Consent has to be given freely and cannot be obtained under duress, falsehood, or threat.
If someone you are not interested in asks you out and you decline the offer, but the person refuses to take the hint, and instead persistently taunts you by making sexual references about your body, or shares false information about you to your friends because of your refusal, that is harassment.
Be mindful of respecting other people’s personal boundaries.
4: Sexual Harassment is NOT Only Physical.
The common examples of sexual harassment are physical.
However, there are several other actions, both verbal and non-verbal, that constitutes sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment can happen offline and on social media.
Did you know that those love letters you send repeatedly to your love interest, even after they told you they are not interested, or making sexual comments about a person’s body is sexual harassment?
Click here for examples of physical, verbal and nonverbal sexual harassment.
5: You Can Take Action
The first step to protecting yourself and standing up for people around you is understanding your rights.
Now that you know what constitutes sexual harassment I encourage you to take action when someone in your school community or neighbourhood attempts to sexually harass you.
One way you can take action is by calling them out.
In strongly worded terms, tell the person that you do not appreciate their actions and ask them to stop.
Another way you can take action is by reporting the person to the school authorities, parents, or a trusted adult.
Does your school/workplace have a sexual harassment policy?
If they do not, maybe it’s time to advocate for them to design zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment.
Creating a conducive environment for students to thrive is a shared responsibility.
When you engage in acts that violate your school mates or people around you, you make it difficult for them to live a full and free life.
Make a commitment to take responsibility for your actions; and to stand up for others.
Kindly take a moment to fill out this anonymous sexual harassment survey: www.bit.ly/GLHSHSurvey