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6 Ways to Teach Girls How to Deal With Idiots That Sexually Harass Them on the Street

By age 12, 22% of girls experience street harassment. By the time they’re 19, it’s 87%.

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3. Let her know that if she’s groped, yelled at, whispered to, it’s not her fault; she doesn’t have to “like it.” It’s bullying. Let her know it’s doesn’t have to be this way, she’s not alone, and she doesn’t have to shamefully keep the harassment to herself. A recent article in  Psychology Today“Hey Baby Hurts,” discusses some of the psychological implications for teens, which includes fear, self-objectification, and withdrawal. Often, girls don’t talk to their parents about the street harassment that they are subjected to. The study released today explains:  ”Nearly a third of the victims said the harassment made them feel sick to their stomach, affected their study habits or fueled reluctance to go to school at all.” Share with her the fact that there is a worldwide movement to combat street harassment. Organizations like  Stop the Harassmentand Holla Back! are dedicated to empowering girls and women by teaching them assertive responses, self-defense, and easy mechanisms for reporting harassers.

4. Set an example if you’re her mom or grandmother or aunt. Stop accepting sexually-based street harassment as the price of being a woman. Men who harass often don’t know they’re being offensive. Tell them. There are places and times when even if you feel threatened you don’t have to be scared. You can look for allies, politely but firmly say, “Stop, that’s offensive,” shame the jerk, call the police. Model fearless behavior for her. If you’re a dad, it’s really important that your daughter understand you don’t think she’s “asking for it.” If she tells you it’s happening, don’t ask her what she was wearing, because she could be wearing  a burka and it would happen.

5. Tell boys and men in your life what’s going on. It’s vital. Most men don’t harass women on the street, but they also don’t realize the extent to which their mothers, sisters, daughters, female friends and coworkers go out of their way to adapt to this reality. We have to stop saying street harassment is just “boys being boys.” This excuse is a reductionist and harrowing definition of masculinity that maintains essentially that all men are animals. Most men are not animals. They are capable of respecting civil boundaries and personal space in public. In particular, boys need to learn five things:

  • That they can participate in bonding experiences, but that harassing girls is an unacceptable way to do it.
  • That they need to stop looking the other way and should intervene in support if the situation warrants it.
  • How to empathize with what their mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, grandmothers, girlfriends, wives are dealing with.
  • How to speak to girls as people, with respect and decency.
  • And that all of this is hard in the  media environment they’re stewing in.

The Good Men Project has an excellent article for boys and men, as well as several pieces about empathizing with what women experience. The international organization Stop Street Harassment also has a page for educating boys.

6. Remind your school that sexual harassment is bullying and that Title IX  makes it illegal:

The AAUW report observes that sexual harassment and bullying can sometimes overlap, such as the taunting of youths who are perceived to be gay or lesbian, but it says there are important distinctions. For example, there are some state laws against bullying, but serious sexual harassment—at a level which interferes with a student’s education—is prohibited under the federal gender-equality legislation known as Title IX.

Too often, the more comfortable term bullying is used to describe sexual harassment, obscuring the role of gender and sex in these incidents,” the report says. “Schools are likely to promote bullying prevention while ignoring or downplaying sexual harassment.”

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