Respect our GIRLS.
Take yourself back to your schools years. Ladies amongst you, do you recall having to pull down your skirt because you felt extremely uncomfortable with the glares that you would received from fully grown men from across the street? Who would have thought that wearing a bog standard grey pleated skirt with 40 denier tights would cause such attraction and attention at the age of, let’s say 14 perhaps?
Today, the BBC released new statistical information published by the children’s charity, Plan International UK in where one third of participants (1,000 girls) expressed that they had experienced some form of sexual harassment when wearing their school uniform, whilst two thirds of the cohort expressed that they have experienced unwanted sexual attention in public. Let us not forget to mention that girls as young as eight years old have also experienced or witnessed such actions. It baffles the mind that girls of such young age encounter situations like this in their day-to-day lives. The morning commute to school should comprise of girls nattering about their crushes or expressing their hate for their Physics Teacher who set a four page worksheet homework task the night before, not worrying about whether an individual from the opposite sex is gazing up their skirt or slyly observing their curves underneath their garments. Whether it be a 37 year old man or a 15 year old boy, this act of slimy behaviour leaves girls with that lump in the throat feeling, that feeling of disgust and that feeling of almost fear.
With recent scandals regarding sexual harassment breaking the internet; from the #MeToo movement to the women speaking up about their experiences at London Tube Stations, it is fair to say that sexual harassment is not as taboo as it used to be. Way back when, women often kept their mouths shut, they often kept such encounters hidden and often dealt with these recurring issues alone. Speak up and you’re accused of falsely accusing. Speak up and you’re told that “it’s your own fault.” Speak up and eyes roll because you’re not strong enough to ‘just deal with it.’ The act of groping, the act of stroking and the act of simply touching a woman with sexual and intimate intentions and without the consent of the individual is rightly classed as sexual harassment. The act of uttering profane and obscene remarks, again is rightly classed as sexual harassment. Once an individual oversteps the line by making one uncomfortable, this is an act of harassment in itself. Not a day goes by without this becoming a regular occurrence for many women across the UK and worldwide; something that should not exist as a norm but, unfortunately does. It is truly a sad day when children as young as eight year old will speak overtly about suffering this harsh reality that exists.
Whilst many have had the privilege of not encountering the unthinkable, sexual harassment which can lead to sexual assault has played a major role in many young people’s lives. Those who are exposed to the nature of rancid and revolting individuals who are sexually smug from making the vulnerable feel wholly minor, are often those who suffer in the long run. Barriers are raised higher than ever before, trust is lost, emotions are tampered with and all are tarnished with the same brush. Physically, girls are left shaken. Emotionally, girls are left confused. Plan International UK’s recent statistics are perhaps not news to us, we undoubtedly are aware that the sexual harassment of our young exists but, at what point do we intervene and ensure that this type of abuse doesn’t interfere with the development and progress of our children’s lives? We must continue to remind children and women alike that speaking up is the stepping stone to eliminating and eradicating this type of behaviour. We must be active teachers in ensuring that both boys and girls are aware of what acceptable behaviour is and what is not. We must allow any individual the right to express their concerns if they are made to feel unsafe in a society that claims to be safe for all to live in. Because, nobody should experience the emotion of discomfort when carrying out their daily business, whether that is walking to school or visiting the off licence across the store.
For more on Plan International UK’s research, please visit: https://plan-uk.org/act-for-girls/street-harassment/its-not-ok