Sexual Harassment In Our Schools

Abigail Sciannella, Staff Writer

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What percentage of high school students were sexually assaulted in 2017? Ten percent.

How many seventh through twelfth graders experienced sexual harassment in 2017? Fifty-eight percent.

One in two rape victims in the United States was under the age of 18.

Are you shocked yet? You should be. The truth is, sexual harassment is a major issue in U.S. schools, and we need to act now.

According to SafeBAE.org, a non-profit organization that focuses on sexual assault on teens, in addition to the statistics noted above, by the time students are finished with secondary school, eighty-one percent will have experienced some form of sexual harassment.
So what are we doing about all of this? The answer, not much. Sexual harassment is prominent, especially in high schools. Whether it be dress codes, catcalling, or boys feeling as though they can touch girls without their consent, it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind that is rape culture.

One major area of concern for equity is dress codes. Don’t show your stomach;  don’t show your shoulders; don’t show your thighs. By telling young girls to cover up in order to not distract the boys, school systems teach girls that they’re worth nothing more than their bodies and that their comfort is worth less than a boys education. Conversely, this approach is teaching boys that it’s okay for them to treat a girl differently based on the way she is dressed. We’re teaching students basic sexism, which relates to the larger issue of sexual harassment in that it teaches us to “blame the victim.” It teaches us that the way we dress affects everything, which, quite frankly, is complete bull.

Catcalling is another major area of concern., whether it’s a simple “Hey baby, how you doing?” or a more vulgar comment regarding a specific area of the body. Every girl that I have ever met has experienced a form of catcalling, especially in school. This occurs essentially because boys are not taught to treat girls in a way that prevents sexual harassment in the first place. Too often, boys’ comments are simply brushed aside as – to use a phrase – “locker room talk” or “just boys being boys”. This needs to change. Apparently boys need to be taught that they should keep comments to themselves, and not judge a girl or anyone based on what she looks like and how she is dressed.

Unfortunately, I’ve experienced this myself. When I am in rehearsal after school, it’s usually extremely hot on the stage with all the lights on. Girls have a tendency to tie up their shirts. I did this once, and I doubt I will ever do it again based on the reactions I got. Boys and girls alike felt the need to comment on my body, and one boy in particular continuously put his hands on me, whether it was my waist or my hips, until I turned and threatened to smack him if he continued to touch me. Thankfully, he listened. I shudder to think what would have happened if he didn’t, or if he were the type to follow me as I walked alone to my car after rehearsal.

Speaking of walking alone, all girls are taught basic self-defense from an early age. Hold your keys between your fingers to pack extra pain into a punch; walk quickly, check behind you to make sure you aren’t being followed; don’t go out at night alone. All of this can really be summed up in one word: fear. Girls are taught to be fearful of the world around them, whether that be walking alone in the dark or being in a public restroom by themselves. The truth is, boys aren’t taught this any more than they are taught the importance of consent, or how to ask for permission.

All of this – the harassment, the catcalls, the fear – should mean that the world knows about it, right? Wrong. Eighty-six percent of sexual assaults go unreported. The reasons for this vary, but much of the problem related to reporting is that girls fear blame – being blamed for being provocative or “wanting it” – and boys, all too often, get off with a simple slap on the wrist.

It is time that we do something more profound to address these issues than just talk about them. We need to stop treating young girls like objects, stop sexualizing their bodies, and start teaching young boys the importance of consent. Also we need to properly punish those who assault others. There are so many steps that can be taken to help bring change, and  prevent girls and young women from having to look over their shoulders, worry about what they are wearing, and defend themselves from unwanted words and touching. As a nation, we need to change this in order to make our country a safer place for women and girls alike.

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1 Comment

One Response to “Sexual Harassment In Our Schools”

  1. Joel Levin on November 11th, 2018 12:01 PM

    Thank you! Please see the resources at the nation nonprofit Stop Sexual Assault in Schools (ssais.org), including the free video “Sexual Harassment: Not in Our School!”

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Sexual Harassment In Our Schools