THINGS TO KNOW

WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE HARASSED, ABUSED OR THE TARGET OF SOME OTHER SEX OFFENCE? WHAT IF YOU WITNESS A SEX OFFENCE OR HEAR ABOUT SOMEONE WHO HAS EXPERIENCED A SEX OFFENCE?

Question: I am a minor. I am a victim of harassment/sex offence. What should I do now?

Answer: You should tell an adult. It’s best to contact a professional (for instance, a teacher, curator, school health nurse), also the police provides anonymous counselling. Don’t be left alone with the matter, you can find information and people who can help you from the Internet. In addition, you can always make an anonymous call to your health centre and ask for advice.

Question: My friend told me that they have been harassed/they are the victim of a sex offence. What should I do now?

Answer: Help your friend understand that what happened is not their fault and that they have nothing to be ashamed of. It’s not good to carry a secret alone and to promise to keep one when the secret is a crime, for instance. You can encourage your friend to tell about what has happened to an adult or a professional. Together you can think of different operators or people who your friend could talk to about what has happened so that the matter will be processed appropriately and taken further. If your friend is a minor, it’s especially important to let adults know about the matter.

Question: I am a teacher. A student told me they have been harassed/they are a victim of a sex offence. What should I do now?

Answer: Thank your student for their trust and for having the courage to reveal what they have gone through. Emphasise the right to seek help and say out loud that it’s not the responsibility of the youth themself. It’s good to calm the student and say that you as an adult are there to help and protect them. Say it out loud that you believe what the student has said. The matter often feels unreal and peculiar to the victim themself. The student has the right to know how matters related to them will progress but it’s good to emphasise the responsibility of adults regarding appropriate reports. Emphasise that even though this is a difficult matter and it may be hard to talk about it, the best way is still to process it. Say that it’s possible to recover and survive this with good care.

The instructions have been created by Tuffi Films and Loisto Settlement NGO: Helsinki Girls’ House and Boys’ House

WHAT DOES SEXUAL HARASSMENT MEAN?

Sexual harassment is prohibited in the Act on Equality between Women and Men. 

In the law, sexual harassment refers to “verbal, non-verbal or physical unwanted conduct of a sexual nature by which a person’s psychological or physical integrity is violated intentionally or factually, in particular by creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive atmosphere”.

Sexual harassment may appear in the following ways: 

  • sexually suggestive gestures or facial expressions 
  • inappropriate sexual talk, indecent jokes and remarks or questions about a person’s body, clothing or private life 
  • inappropriate sexual content on different social media channels, messages on WhatsApp, Snapchat and other similar channels, text messages, emails, calls 
  • physical touching and advances 
  • suggestions or demands about sexual intercourse or other sexual activities 
  • sex offences, such as rape, attempted rape or sexual abuse.

Exposing a child or an adolescent to non-age-appropriate sexuality that insults their mental or physical integrity is sexual harassment.

  • If you become a victim of sexual harassment, it’s important to debrief the situation later by discussing with someone.

  • If you find someone’s actions suspicious, you should talk about it with a reliable adult.
  • It’s not the victim’s responsibility to “react correctly” to the harassment.

  • Words are actions too!
  • Remember that public spaces often have CCTV, which means that events can be verified later. Getting justice often makes the victim feel better.
  • Touching without consent is always wrong, and there is no justification for it.
  • Sexual harassment is never the fault of the person being harassed!

WHAT DOES THE LAW SAY ABOUT SEX OFFENCES?

Sex offences determined in the Finnish legislation

  • Rape, aggravated rape 
  • Coercion into a sexual act 
    • For instance, a sexual act when someone is unconscious or in fear 
  • Sexual abuse 
    • Abusing a person below the age of 18 years or a person who is dependent on the offender 
  • Sexual harassment 
    • For instance, touching without consent 
  • Sexual abuse of a child, aggravated sexual abuse of a child 
    • Touching or having sex with a child below the age of 16 or a child below the age of 18 if the offender is the child’s parent or in a position comparable to that of a parent. 
  • Abuse of a victim of sexual trade 
  • Purchase of sexual services from a young person 
  • Solicitation of a child for sexual purposes 
    • For instance, suggesting sex, preparing sexually offensive pictures 
  • Following of a sexually offensive performance of a child 
  • Pandering, aggravated pandering
  • If you become a victim of a sex offence, it’s important to debrief the situation later by discussing with someone.
  • Crimes can be brought forward even after a long time, and it’s completely normal.
  • Seeking justice often makes the victim feel better even though the legal process is rough.
    • A victim of a sex offence has the right
      • to receive a support person for the trial from Victim Support Finland, for instance
      • to choose their own attorney
      • to receive sufficient time for the attorney to familiarise themself with the case
      • not to encounter the offender at any stage of the trial.
  • If a sex offence has taken place in a community (a place of work, a school community, for instance), it’s the entire community’s responsibly not to sweep what has happened under the rug and to stand with the victim.
  • All kinds of touching without consent is prohibited. If you are not completely sure, always ensure the other person’s consent by asking. If the other person doesn’t consent, do not pressure them. If consent cannot be given, it doesn’t exist: touching a sleeping person, for instance, is a crime.

  • Masturbation in the company of another person without their consent is sexual abuse because it is a way of using someone else as a tool for your own pleasure.
  • Sex offences are always the responsibility of the offender and never the victim’s fault.

WHAT DOES GENDER SENSITIVITY MEAN?

  The purpose of gender-sensitive actions is to strengthen everyone’s opportunities of leading a life that is meaningful for them. The objective of gender sensitivity is that, regardless of gender, sexual preferences and other sides of humanity, everyone can:

  • fulfil their potential
  • express their gender in a way that respects how unique we all are as individuals
  • learn to value themself and have an approving and compassionate attitude towards themself.

What isn’t gender sensitivity?

To start with, gender sensitivity isn’t the same thing as gender neutrality. In gender sensitivity, the goal is not to abolish, fade out, compare or value genders. In gender sensitivity, the aim is to expand and enrichen the opportunities of people fulfilling themselves across the boundaries of categories – truly as their whole selves and in their full potential. Second, gender sensitivity doesn’t equal gender-specific actions. Only targeting events or actions for a specific gender doesn’t make them gender-sensitive. Third, gender sensitivity doesn’t only mean gender awareness. In addition to awareness, it’s courageous and active actions towards an equal and socially just life. 

Quote from the Girls’ House website.

WHAT IS SEXISM?

Sexism refers to beliefs based on the idea that a person or a group of persons is inferior because of their sex, gender, gender identity or gender expression. Sexism can come across in actions, speech, gestures, practices as well as cultural products, for instance.

The impacts of sexism: 

  • violates the rights of an individual or a group 
  • causes physical, mental, financial or sexual damage 
  • creates a threatening, hostile, demeaning or humiliating atmosphere 
  • prevents an individual or a group from acting freely in accordance with their rights 
  • maintains and enforces gender-related stereotypes.
  • Male-dominated culture is prevalent in different areas of life even if we don’t pay attention to it because almost all culture we consume is made by men and only men have for long occupied the most esteemed positions of our society. 

    • We are so used to certain thinking patterns and methods that it’s hard to change them.

WHAT DOES BODY PEACE MEAN?

Body peace raises children who look in the mirror and, year after year, say: “Wow, I’m gorgeous!” This is because they don’t know of anything else.

Body peace means the following: 

  • Don’t comment on the bodies of other people. Every person’s body is their own, and what that body is like or how it changes is no one else’s business.
  • No negative or positive comments on the appearance of others in magazines, photos or face-to-face. You can compliment someone’s skills, characteristics or features instead of appearance.
  • Parents don’t comment on their own bodies negatively. Children shouldn’t be taught that your body is something you should slander.

WHAT IS BODY POSITIVITY?

Body positivity refers to the acceptance of your own body and the bodies of others. No one’s value depends on the size or shape of their body, the colour of their skin or anyone’s way of using their body to express themself. Everyone has the right to be happy – and feel all the emotions that are part of being a human – just as they are.

  • Over the course of your life, changes in your body are natural as situations in life vary, and your body will also change as you age. You have no reason to comment on the changes in some other person’s body.
  • Body positivity doesn’t mean that you should think your body is perfect in all ways – an imperfect body is just as acceptable as a “perfect body”.
  • Accepting your own body doesn’t mean that you couldn’t care less about looking after your health. According to research, people who care about themselves are more likely to look after themselves than people struggling with self-loathing.

WHAT DOES DISCRIMINATION MEAN AND WHAT KIND OF DISCRIMINATION IS PROHIBITED IN THE LEGISLATION?

Discrimination refers to treating someone worse than others based on a personal characteristic. The Equality Act and the Non-discrimination Act regulate what kind of discrimination is prohibited in the law. All kinds of discrimination is harmful for a community. Loyalty and working together deconstruct polarisation and lighten the atmosphere.

Discrimination prohibited in the Equality Act:

The Equality Act prohibits sexual harassment and discrimination based on gender as well as orders or instructions to engage in discrimination based on gender. Gender-based harassment means threatening, hostile, derogatory or humiliating conduct that is not of a sexual nature but which is related to the gender of a person, their gender identity or gender expression.

Gender-based harassment can be seen in the following ways:

  • speaking of other genders in a derogatory manner
  • demeaning other genders
  • bullying at school or in the workplace if the bullying is based on the gender of the person being bullied.

Discrimination in working life prohibited in the Equality Act prohibits:  

  • Discrimination based on gender when employing a person or selecting someone for a training. 
  • Discrimination based on pregnancy or childbirth when employing a person or deciding on the continuation of an employment relationship. 
    • Asking questions related to your family situation or if you are planning to have children is not allowed in a job interview. You don’t have to and should not respond to these kinds of questions.
  • Application of pay or other terms of employment unequally based on gender.

Discrimination prohibited in the Non-discrimination Act

No one may be discriminated against on the basis of age, origin, nationality, language, religion, belief, opinion, political activity, trade union activity, family relationships, state of health, disability, sexual orientation or other personal characteristics.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU SUSPECT YOU HAVE BEEN DISCRIMINATED AGAINST IN APPLYING FOR A JOB OR IN WORKING LIFE?

  If you suspect you have been discriminated against, think of the following questions:

  • Was I treated differently than others?
  • Did the treatment take place because of something classified as a prohibited basis of discrimination?
  • Why do you suspect that you were treated differently than others based on your personal characteristic?

In unclear situations, don’t hesitate to contact the office of the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman. The Non-Discrimination Ombudsman can help you by:

  • discussing with you if your treatment constitutes illegal discrimination and how the matter could be taken further
  • requesting a report on the matter from the person/party suspected of discrimination
  • giving instructions, advice and recommendations
  • promoting reconciliation
  • by taking or helping to take the matter to the Non-Discrimination and Equality Board or tribunal.  

Quote from the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman’s website.

If you suspect that you have been discriminated against because of your gender, you can turn to the Ombudsman for Equality for help and advice. You can find the contact details at: www.tasa-arvo.fi