I remember when I was 11 years old, the boys were constantly lifting our uniform skirts to see our underwear. The boys were rarely punished and the girls took action by wearing their gym shorts under their skirts. It was a part of school life and no one really paid attention to the humiliation we endured on a daily basis. I remember one boy snapping my first bra and I literally did not want to go to school for a week.
In a study by the American Association of University Women about sexual harassment of children in grades 7 through 12, the issue is finally being brought to light. The question is how do we help our girls and how do we teach our children this kind of behaviour is unacceptable? I believe the answer lies within us as parents.
According to the study, the majority of the victims were girls. Forty-six per cent of girls surveyed were the target of comments about their bodies and 13 per cent were touched in a way that made them uncomfortable. Many girl felt so uncomfortable they did not want to go to school and felt physically ill as a result of the harassment.
What to teach your daughter:
It's not your fault. -- If someone talks to you or touches you in a way that makes you uncomfortable you are being harassed and it is not your fault even if you may have flirted with him
Tell them to stop. -- Teach your daughter how to tell the harasser not to do it anymore because it is unwelcome. She should not feel bad for the harasser or worry about hurting his/her feelings. Her feelings are just as important.
Tell someone. -- It is so important you tell your daughter she must come to you if this happens to her. Assure her you will always have her back and she should never be embarrassed, no matter how lewd the comment. You are her biggest advocate and she needs to know it.
Keep a log of the harassment. -- You need to keep a diary of every incident and every comment made to your daughter in case further action needs to be taken in the future. If someone sends her emails, texts or photos, keep them because that is your proof.
Do something about it. -- If your daughter feels uncomfortable reporting harassment, then you as a parent need to make sure the school knows what is going on. I think it is also perfectly acceptable to call the parent of the child harassing your daughter and ask them to help you with the problem. Put the call into your log and record what you said and how the parent responded to you. If you do not make any headway, contact the school for help.
Remember, your child only has you in this difficult situation and you need to take it seriously. Tell her about this study that was done and ask her if she ever experienced unwanted comments or inappropriate touching.
Talk to her about how she handled it and make a it an ongoing discussion. Her self-esteem is what she needs for life and no one should be allowed to take that away from her. Every girl is different and standing up for herself might be difficult for her, depending on her personality and self-confidence, so be empathetic and help her if you feel she cannot help herself. The most important thing you can do as a parent is to listen to her and do everything you can do to protect her during these difficult years.