The following investigation into high school sexual harassment was submitted by a team of reporters at a Boston Public high school. We have chosen to withhold the identity of the school because the writers of the piece were unable to interview students and teachers outside of their own school. We know that this is a problem prevalent within the wider Boston Public School system, and we did not want the writers’ limitations to convey otherwise.
For many high school students, specifically girls, sexual harassment is a problem. According to Equal Rights Advocate, “Sexual harassment can happen in three different ways: verbal (comments about your body, spreading sexual rumors, dirty jokes or stories etc), physical (grabbing, rubbing, touching, pitching in a sexual way, sexual assault), and visual (display of naked pictures or sex-related objects, obscene gestures).”
“I feel like sometimes this person will try to abuse me one day if I let them touch me,” said Daphcar, a 10th grade student at Boston Public High.
Many students, especially boys, believe that it’s normal to sexually harass girls. Joseph, a student at Boston Public High, demonstrated this belief. He admitted he had already committed sexual harassment. He stated, “I just want to do it because I want to, without caring about the girl’s feelings…”
Unfortunately, according to an interview with a staff member of the school who wishes to remain anonymous, this is not a new dilemma. He said, “I witness sexual harassment every day, in the school, in the street, everywhere.” He further stated, “That happens because the female lets them do it. When a female dresses a certain way (like showing her boobs a little bit), she’s showing what she got. If you have short shorts, a little shirt and you’re walking around, someone might go and touch you. But look at how you’re walking around…if you dress properly nobody will bother you.”
Yet, this type of language is part of the inherent problem at Boston Public High. Isn’t it a kind of way to blame the victims? Do women really needs to hide themselves so they don’t worry about being violated? Do boys, like Joseph, really think they can touch a woman just because they want to?
“Sometimes I suffer sexual harassment. When I’m walking, boys start to talk about my rear...even if I wear wider clothes,” said Stefany, a Boston Public High student. “I feel uncomfortable with that. For this reason I stopped going to the pool and beach.”
Stopping this type of behavior is difficult. “There are boys who constantly touch girls’ hair, pull on their hair or touch places where they don’t have permission to touch. Sometimes I see girls not feeling like they have power to say ‘no,’”said Ms. B, a teacher from Boston Public High. “Also, sometimes I see relationships between a boy and a girl where the boy is not treating the girl with enough respect.”
“I feel really scared because a lot of our students are older—17, 18, 19—so when I see a little bit of emotional abuse, I’m nervous for it to turn violent,” she added.
“I think the school should have education about sexual harassment, so people can be aware of that,” said Lafouine, a student from Boston Public High.
The benefits of sexual harassment education has been supported by experts. “This new data on consent and sexual assault make it crystal clear that more needs to be done to educate men, women, and young people in this country,” said Dr. Leslie Kantor, Vice President of Education at Planned Parenthood. “In order to curb sexual violence, we need to teach young people how to talk about sex, including how to ask for and recognize consent.”
As you can see, sexual harassment is a critical issue that has been not fully addressed in school. Sexual harassment affects many girls and makes them feel uncomfortable. And the way a girl dresses or walks shouldn't be an excuse to commit it. Sexual harassment can happen in many different ways. However, not many people are aware of those ways. Thus, we should try to prevent that from happening by having education about sexual harassment for girls and boys.