Sexual Harassment

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Sexual Harassment

Dear GZ Advisor,
My name is Jennifer, I am 13 years old.  I am in the eighth grade and have already been sexually harassed. I know it sounds odd for a 13 year old who lives in a safe township in western Pennsylvania to have been sexually harassed. It all happened when one day in February, I was erasing the chalkboard at recess, when a boy in my class came up behind me and grabbed my butt. That was not the first time that it had happened. One day in gym class in November we were doing a drill called under the stomach and hop over the back. Well when it was his turn to go under me he looked up and grabbed my breast!

He also approaches me sometimes in class telling me stuff like, "You should wear that shirt more often," or he whispers to his friends, "I'm lucky I got to see down Jen's shirt." It came to a point one day where I just could not take it anymore from him so I told my parents and they kinda just ignored the subject because I didn't tell them the whole story because I was embarrassed to use the words breast around my parents.

I have told this boy to stop doing this but he doesn't take me seriously. And I told him it is sexual harassment, but he says he's just kidding and playing a joke.

But it is not a joke to me.

It's my body and I should be able to walk into school not being worried about what he's going to do today or is this shirt okay to wear. And sometimes when I tell him to stop he tells me, "No, I never grabbed your butt." But he did and it affects me big time. Do you have any advice on how I can get him to stop?
Signed Jennifer

Dear Jennifer,
I can understand how you might be embarrassed to tell your parents the specifics about being sexually harassed at school. Many young people have a hard time talking to their parents about things that are so personal. If you feel that you cannot talk to them, and tell them the whole story, it is very important that you find another trusted adult to confide in (a teacher, school counselor, or the principal for example). You are absolutely right in saying that you shouldn't have to worry about being touched by this boy (or anyone for that matter), or to have to be anxious about what you wear to school (as long as your clothing complies with any school dress codes).

Sexual harassment, by definition, includes physical contact that's inappropriate and unwanted.

Sexual harassment may also include verbal remarks of a sexual nature. It's illegal in schools according to Civil Rights Act Title IX of the Federal Education Amendments. Your school should have a policy that outlines action to be taken when a student reports being harassed. You've asked this boy to stop, and he hasn't. He probably won't stop unless a school official intervenes.

By law, it's your school's responsibility to provide an environment free of sexual discrimination and harassment -- but your school can't do anything if someone isn't told of the incidents.

This boy's behavior toward you is totally disrespectful and unacceptable. He may be sexually harassing other girls as well, and he needs to be stopped. Harassment only escalates when it's ignored, or when it isn't reported. When you tell, you will not only help yourself, but other girls as well. This takes courage, I know. But I also know you can do it!
All the best to you, GZ Advisor