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Sexual Harassment

Dear Amy,

I am 14 years old...and I ride a school bus where sexual harassment is a daily part of being on the bus. There are mostly junior high school boys on the bus, and they are the source of all the harassment. It is in my opinion that they are the way that they are because they believe us (women) to be nothing more than a piece of meat. It upsets me to see that other girls, my peers, not speak up or do something about it. My own sister started to ride my bus this year, she's 12, and I'm worried for her safty and well being. I myself believe I could prevent or stop any sexual harassment that is aimed towards me. But my sister I am worried would be too scared to speak up.

I have heard of Feminism for many years and never really considered myself to be an active feminist. But after all the things I have seen and heard...it is in my opinion that the world would be better off with more feminists. What should I do about the sexual harassment going on on my bus and how can I better educate the girls around me to be proud of being female? Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Worried Sick about Sibling

 

   

Dear Worried Sick,

What an awful thing to have happen. It is certainly fueled by insecurity on the part of the boys and in turn fuels insecurity among the girls -- it's not good for anyone. I think that your goal is obviously to do away with the discrimination/harassment -- and in order to do that, you have to show that it is wrong -- for instance, getting the girls to realize that they don't have to be treated this way and have someone impress upon the boys that it is just wrong. As to the former, have you tried talking to some of the girls about this? I'm sure that part of their resistance to seeing it as harassment is that they see it as attention, but negative attention shouldn't count. And the boys then feed off of this -- they keep doing it. And sadly what also happens is that some boys probably don't want to, but they are trying to impress other boys and even the girls and so they do it.

You should check with your school's principles office and see what guidelines they have in place regarding harassment of fellow students -- ask them -- this is public information. Then you should ask about filing a complaint -- just to make sure that you are making official. But what will really make a difference is actually doing something on the buses that makes this behavior stop. For instance, having adults ride the buses and monitor this behavior. As well as have assigned seating. No one will likely like this and so perhaps it can be proposed as a threat and once the harassment stops, then these restrictions can ease up.

You also need to talk to the girls to make them realize that they don't have to tolerate it -- are there assemblies in school where someone could address this -- not necessarily you, but someone who can impress this upon them? This is actually the most crucial element because the girls will otherwise think they have to tolerate it and do so because to do otherwise will make them feel like an outsider or a looser some how.

I hope that helps,

Good luck,

--Amy

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