Sexually Harassment Girls are In School All The Time

Teens Problems

 Sexually Harassment Girls are In School All The Time and No One Is Doing Anything About It

Hey, guess what I’m doing right now?” The whisper was so quiet that only Anna* could hear him. Cause of harassment She tensed up, knowing what was coming next. “I’ve got my dick in my hand and I’m just staring at you and jerking off and… ahhh… ahhhh!” Anna said nothing.

Anna had grown accustomed to this start to her day. As soon as she sat down for her 9 a.m. eighth-grade English class, the boy who sat behind her would begin taunting her. Sometimes he whispered sexual things in her ear and other times he pretended to jerk off (or maybe he actually did — Anna couldn’t see) while he quietly narrated his fantasies about her. When Anna told the boy to leave her alone, she says he made fun of her for not being able to “take a joke.” He also said she should take it as a compliment that she “got to be in the spank bank.”

The boy was slick when it came to this behavior, waiting until the teacher turned her back or stepped out of the room to interact with Anna. He was so subtle that other students hardly noticed or, if they did, they were likely too uncomfortable to say anything about it. While she had a hard time articulating what was happening between this boy and her, she did know that his behavior made her feel small and invisible. And she felt helpless trying to stop it.

At the time, Anna had no idea that this daily interaction had a name and that was “sexual harassment.” Sexual harassment is any unwanted touching or talking of a sexual nature, and it can happen in-person, on social media, or through private messages likes texts and DMs. Although the law doesn’t prohibit teasing or isolated incidents that are not very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile environment. And yes, it happens in middle school. Twenty-seven percent of middle school girls said they’d been physically or verbally sexually harassed, in a study done by the American Educational Research Association.

And Quinn isn’t alone. Nearly 40 percent of teens have experienced at least one form of harassment via technology, like text messages or Snapchat, according to a study done by the University of Chicago. And that number doesn’t account for dick pics, requests for blow jobs or nude photos, or comments about body parts, which are so common, victims may not even feel like they’re worth reporting.That sense of dread continued until one day, during another episode of harassment, Anna burst into tears and her teacher finally noticed something was going on. She told the teacher about the abuse from her classmate and her teacher took her seriously, removing him from the class and recommending him for counseling. Unfortunately, that didn’t totally stop the harassment. While he couldn’t bother her in class anymore, in the hallways he and his friends would follow her around, calling her a slut and worse.While in-person harassment can be traumatic, the harassment that takes place in text messages or Instagram DMs can also infiltrate schools. Quinn*, 16, found this out when she sent a nude selfie to her crush. Even though her crush swore he wouldn’t share it with anyone, it quickly spread through the school and soon “literally everyone was talking about my boobs, in class, in the hallway, on Instagram, everywhere,” she says. “And they weren’t nice about it.”

It wasn’t long before a teacher saw the picture and reported it to the principal. Quinn says the school started calling parents and threatening the boys that they’d call the police or charge them with having child porn. “It was humiliating and everyone basically blamed me and abandoned me,” she says. She ended up withdrawing from school for several months.

Even though the majority of 7th to 12th grade girls say harassment happens on the regular and it’s hurting their ability to learn, 80 percent of schools reported exactly zero harassment, in a recent report by the American Association of University Women (AAUW). This staggering stat shows that either middle- and high- school girls aren’t reporting their harassment or the schools are failing at protecting their students. More likely, it’s a bit of both.

For young victims, reporting harassment is complicated. To start, being harassed can be straight-up scary and a totally natural response to fear is to freeze up in the moment, says Donna M. Volpitta, Ed.D., a counselor and founder of The Center for Resilient Leadership. “Sexual harassment and assault is a threat to the brain, triggering the ‘fight, flight, or freeze’ response, and often victims will freeze, which leaves them feeling helpless in response to that threat,” she explains. This helpless feeling can have lasting effects, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders and self-harming behaviors like cutting.

When it comes to anything involving sex, even harassment, young women are under a ton of pressure to not just accept it, but even act like they like it, says Lisa Wade, Ph.D., a gender and sex researcher and author of American Hookup.

Girls Are Sexually Harassment In School All The Time and No One Is Doing Anything About It

SEVENTEEN / SADE ADEYINA

If sexual harassment starts in middle school, high school is where the problem morphs into an epidemic. With early occurrences of sexual harassment going unchecked, the frequency of harassment can pick up as teens dive deeper into puberty, have their first sexual encounters, and form romantic relationships. Nearly 60 percent of high school girls said they’d been victims of sexual harassment, according to a survey done by the AAUW. Most of the girls said they were harassed by other students but 30 percent admitted they’ve been harassed by a school employee or a teacher.

Again, the effects of sexual harassment has negative and long-lasting effects. “This absolutely bleeds over into their school life, hurting their self-esteem and grades,”says Berglund.

Over half of teen girls said being sexually harassed made them feel embarrassed, self-conscious, angry or scared, the AAUW added. How are you supposed to even think about finishing your science project when your classmate is making you feel objectified and uncomfortable on a daily basis?berglund says she’s seen girls wear baggier clothing to hide their bodies, put in headphones just to walk from one class to the next to block out comments, and even avoid drinking fountains for fear of bending over and getting groped.

Girls also reported having trouble sleeping, losing their appetite, avoiding class or a study group, thinking about changing schools, actually changing schools, avoiding certain rooms like the library, or changing their schedule, according to the AAUW study.

And while there are a lot of complicated feelings and reasons behind why you might not report sexual harassment and assault, there’s always that lingering extra fear that even if you do say something, it won’t work.

Under Title IX, a federal civil rights law, any school receiving money from the government must ensure that sexual harassment or sexual violence does not create a “hostile environment.

Girls Are Sexually Harassment In School All The Time and No One Is Doing Anything About It

Not all schools are ignoring the problem but it can be tricky identifying what harassment is, when it’s gone too far, and what the appropriate consequence is as the specific rules are individual to each school. Many schools classify sexual harassment as “bullying,” Warkov adds. And this is problematic.

“Harassers and bullies often differ in motivations, and parents and educators need to understand these differences to create effective prevention and response programs,” says the AAUW. “Sexual harassment and bullying are recognized as different issues under the law.” While there is no federal bullying law, sexual harassment is illegal under federal law when it is pervasive or severe enough to impact a student’s education.

The responsibility starts with the schools as the best way to deal with sexual harassment is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. “Schools should conduct periodic sexual harassment awareness training for all school staff, including administrators, teachers, and guidance counselors, and age-appropriate sexual harassment training for students,” according to the U.S. Department of Education. “Regardless of whether the victim files a formal complaint or requests action, the school must conduct a prompt, impartial, and thorough investigation to determine what happened and must take appropriate steps to resolve the situation.”

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