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August 27, 2009

Girls: School sexual assault=fact of life?

Filed under: News,Psychology — posted by Breakup Girl @ 10:32 am

From CityTV.com in Toronto, via Bitch Ph.D.:

…It appears a growing number of young girls are not only being sexually assaulted [in school], but have come to think of it as a normal part of their educational experience.

Recent studies from both the Board’s Safety Panel and the Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health show some shocking stats at one school: 33 per cent say they’ve been sexually harassed in the past two years; another 29 admit to having been touched or grabbed inappropriately and seven per cent have actually been victims of a major sexual assault.

“You just hear jokes [being yelled out] all the time that have to do with girls doing sexual things,” said Madison Fitzgerald, a Toronto high school student.

“There’s a lot of groping and touching in our school.,” said another.

But Connelly believes it’s a problem that’s endemic to halls of learning across the country. “One of the concerns is the alarming rate of gender-based violence, and 21 per cent of the students that were surveyed said that they knew at least one student who was sexually assaulted at school. Now there’s sexual harassment, which is talking inappropriately and there’s sexual harassment which is being touched inappropriately. So the 21 per cent are talking about sexual assault.

“Twenty-nine per cent of Grade 9 girls … felt unsafe at school partly due to sexual comments and unwanted looks or touches; 27 per cent of the girls in Grade 11 admitted to being pressured into doing something sexual that they did not want to do; 14 per cent of the females reported being harassed over the Internet.”

She worries that’s becoming the ‘new normal’ and an accepted mode of behaviour that’s just part of going to class everyday. “They take it for granted that this is the way they should be treated,” she concludes.

Some experts believe the situation is exacerbated because most kids don’t understand exactly what “sexual assault” actually entails.

But at least the grownups are finally starting to call it that. Though they may need to move a little more quickly to educate everyone about what’s appropriate and what’s just … no. Then — holy grail — you need to get the popular kids to call out the others when it happens.

Me, I remember a bit of vaguely line-crossing stuff that happened when I was in school, shortly after the Peloponnesian War. Whether or not I told, which I probably did not, I remember that in general the adults’ response would be “Eh, he’s just doing it because he likes you.” And I remember that weird mix of feelings that I didn’t know what to do with, that uncomfortably prickly mishmash of “Eee, really?! and “Eeuw.” Not helpful.

Q: What kind of sexual harassment is — or was — considered “normal” at your school? What, if anything, was done about it?


  1. I was in high school in the late 1980’s, and we tried to dress as much like Madonna in her “Material Girl” video as we could without getting sent home … often leggings, oversized shirts, big hair, and either ballerina flats or high heels with ankle socks. I remember once bending over to take a sip of water out of a water fountain when some boy walking by ran something – finger, pencil, whatever – between my thighs and up against my crotch. I was spooked, and angry, more at the impertinent grin he gave me when I turned around than the assault. I reported it to school officials and he was called down to the office to confront me. It was incredibly uncomfortable when the school just dismissed it as harmless kids’ play and then all our mutual friends got mad at ME for getting him in trouble. In fact, I began to get a loose reputation after that which I felt unempowered to fight if boys were indeed allowed to touch me there without my permission.

    I hope that kids today aren’t going through the same kind of thing. While I have a healthy sense of sexuality now, I found it through trial and error after that experience.

    Comment by Kalleigh Hathaway — August 27, 2009 @ 6:10 pm

  2. […] Read more from the original source: Breakup Girl » Girls: School sexual assault=fact of life? […]

    Pingback by Breakup Girl » Girls: School sexual assault=fact of life? | girls — August 29, 2009 @ 3:57 pm

  3. I live in Mayberry, but one guy is a total juvenile delinquent perv. He has grabbed my breast at a school training in front of a teacher no less, and would not let go. My boyfriend, despite being uber-conservative-christian, would not do anything about it, and everyone made me feel bad about making a big deal about it. The same kid later took a picture down my shirt with someone else’s phone. None of my friends would do anything, except for my knightinshiningskinnyjeans, Luke, a fairly intimidating kid who put an end to this. I knew better than to involve authority figures. They don’t treat victims like victims. They treat victims like they’re guilty.

    Comment by kelly — August 31, 2009 @ 2:49 pm

  4. Thank you for sharing these stories. @Kelly: “None of my friends would do anything, except for my knightinshiningskinnyjeans, Luke, a fairly intimidating kid who put an end to this.” This underscores how important it is to get school leaders — official and unofficial – on board with calling out the bad guys.

    Comment by BG — September 1, 2009 @ 2:43 pm

  5. @BG At my school in my hick town, it’s “boys will be boys” and anything that happens is your fault. Since the administration is inept, and it’s uncomfortable as a situation for students to be in, that highlights the need for us as students to say “no, this behavior is not acceptable, we will not tolerate this”. And we need to stop blaming victims. Thank goodness for the good guys and gals of the world who keep girls from feeling unsafe.

    Comment by kelly — September 8, 2009 @ 8:57 pm

  6. In reading the excellent book, “Promiscuities,” which I discovered right here at breakupgirl.net, I realize that there’s an entire cloud of acceptability for female sexuality when we submit or otherwise don’t consent (like being drunk) but not when we take control of it (which is when we get called sluts). When I had that “aha” moment in reading, it put new light on my experience. I had the audacity to say, “that’s not okay,” even though it was a friend of mine, a boy I’d once even briefly dated. No wonder I got more of a reputation than if I had let it slide and embraced being a victim.

    I almost want to cry for girls growing up today in this era of confused sexuality, where empowerment is punished in so many subtle ways.

    Comment by Kalleigh Hathaway — September 9, 2009 @ 9:30 am

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