By Beth Morrison HAVEN CEO
My heart raced. I was dreading walking down that long hallway and just wishing I could evaporate. Each and every day from 7th grade through 12th grade, I felt this dread and had this awful moment occur over and over again. I was enduring sexual harassment, although in the 70’s I had no idea what it was called, I just knew it was painful and wrong.
In my school the boys would line up against a long row of windows and during breaks between classes, they would “rate” the girls that walked by them daily, and often hourly. We were rated on our breast size, weight, appeal, appearance, “easiness” – you name it. I don’t recall in the six years of experiencing this harassment, ever seeing a teacher or another student questioning it or attempting to put a stop to it.
So how much has changed since the 70’s? Apparently, not much. In a recent study released by the AAUW nearly half (48%) of the students surveyed experienced some form of sexual harassment in the 2010-11 school year, and the majority of those students (87%) said it had a negative effect on them. Verbal harassment (unwelcomed sexual comments, jokes, or gestures) was the most prevalent form of harassment.
Girls are sexually harassed more than boys, and girls’ experiences tend to be my physical and intrusive than boys’ experiences. 1/3 of girls and 1/4 of boys said that they observed sexual harassment at their schools. More than half (56%) of these students witnessed sexual harassment more than once during the school year.
Many of the students who admitted to harassing others didn’t think of it as a big deal (44%) and many were trying to be funny (39%).
So most of the victims said the harassment had a negative impact on them and nearly half of the perpetrators said it was no big deal or a joke. When are we going to realize, across all ages, that talking inappropriately about a woman’s breast size, laughing and taunting about a person’s sexuality, talking offensively or inappropriately about sex, is NOT FUNNY!
Take Herman Cain for instance. We actually have someone running for President who believes his sense of humor is fine, that these women just can’t take a joke. In 2011.
It is time to take sexual harassment seriously. It is time that we give our children a safe place to learn and appropriate role models to surround themselves. Let’s give our children the skills they need to be safe and the skills necessary to learn respect for those that are different from themselves. Let that be our legacy instead of handing down another bad “joke.”
To get more information about HAVEN Prevention Education presenting at your child’s school, please call (248) 334-1284 ext. 360.