Illustration by Emmanuel Polanco
An opinion piece that addresses the issue of sexual harassment in schools
Imagine this: A young woman is walking to her office for a large organisation, on her way there she is cat-called by some laddish men, comments about her short skirt are made, they ask her if she’s free tonight, she feels intimated, but walks past.
It gets worse, she drops her purse and when she bends down to pick it up one of the men jokes that she’s getting ready for him. She quickly stands up and dashes off to her desk feeling upset and humiliated.
At lunch she’s standing in the cafeteria talking to her friend when suddenly she feels someone grope her, she turns round but all she sees in a group of men laughing and walking off. She tells her friend who laughs it off and says “well someone obviously liked you; lucky you!” but she doesn’t feel lucky.
When she’s back at her desk she overhears two male co-workers talking about one of the girls in the office and describing her as a slut who would probably be good in bed. When she walks past them later in the day another guy has joined them and they are all looking and laughing at a phone, and as she gets closer she can clearly hear pornographic sounds. She is unsure about walking past them and wants to confront them but feels anxious about drawing attention to herself as she’s sure they will make suggestive comments and she feels intimidated as there are 3 of them. She walks past quickly and doesn’t say anything and they don’t even appear to notice her, engrossed as they are.
Then as she’s leaving work she sees a woman getting slapped on the ass by a guy and then he walks away with his friends talking about how fit the woman is, she catches up to the woman and asks her if she’s ok, the woman looks at her puzzled “why wouldn’t I be?” she explains what she saw and the woman laughs and replies “Aw that’s just Ed! It’s just a bit of banter, isn’t it” and walks away with her friends. The woman is left behind wondering if her statement was a genuine question or rhetorical, she’s not sure if the other woman herself knew.
Finally, walking behind people as she walks home, she overhears plenty of conversations where women are being called bitches or sluts and guys are joking calling each other faggots.
Does this sound slightly familiar? Would you be comfortable working in an office environment like that? Hopefully not… Ask yourself would you be comfortable with teenagers & older children 12+ being in this kind of setting?
Well they are: from Monday to Friday, morning to afternoon. Change one word in the above scenario; office to school. This happens in almost every school and can be harmful to both girls and boys. It happens in my school and I myself have been a victim of it and I know I’m not alone; when I asked several of my friends if they thought sexual harassment happened in schools they replied no, but when I asked them if they had been groped or cat-called most said yes and added further stories of being called crude things and even rumours being spread about them committing sexual acts.
This is harassment and girls don’t even know it’s happening to them as it’s so common place. Now I’m not saying that schools are horrible places and this happens to every girl, but I want to bring this to people’s attention so that it can be stopped. It needs to be stopped because it’s harmful and can really affect a person’s self-confidence. I don’t want my little sister or any little girl going into this sort of environment.
So Stand Up against sexual harassment in schools, ask what schools policies are, don’t be afraid to call it out and guys don’t do it and don’t be a bystander to someone doing it.
- Written by Megan Low, 14
Welcome to the Stand Up! platform for young people's voices from across the Scottish Highlands.
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