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Teen sexual harassment: What you can do about it in your daughter's school

Teen sexual harassment is part of everyday life in American middle school and high school, experienced by almost half of students. Here are actions you can take to empower yourself and your daughter. The first in a series on the topic.

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Building safety practices provide the biggest positive impact: temporary school-based stay-away orders, assignment of school faculty and safety personal to monitor unsafe areas, and the use of posters for education. In conjunction with building safety, a classroom curriculum adds to the reduction of sexual harassment and violence. Topics covered in the classroom emphasize consequences to the harasser, communicating boundaries, and the role of the bystander.[ii]

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Guest Blogger

Paula Grieco is an entrepreneur, writer, and mama who has a long-standing passion for worldwide girls’ development and empowerment. She is the former chair of Made by Survivors, an anti-slavery organization, and she lives in Massachusetts with her husband, her daughter and son, and their dog Henry. She blogs at What’s Your Brave.

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And most importantly, students have suggestions too – allowing them to anonymously report a problem was at the top of their list. Also high on teens’ lists are enforcing policies and punishing harassers.[iii]

What really struck us about these solutions is how much adults can impact the culture, and further how uncomplicated they are to implement and enforce.

Parents Need to Be Part of Solution

As parents, we can step up to create a tipping point. (A tipping point is the point at which the buildup of minor changes or incidents reaches a level that triggers a more significant change – the cultural shift on smoking in public is one good example.)

Isn’t it time to stop suggesting that our daughters find another hallway to get to class?

If you’re in, let’s get started. Take just a few minutes to complete one or both of the Take 5 actions below.

What you can do right now: Two practical take 5 actions

1. Observe your own attitudes and language about sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape. Think about your own attitudes about sexual harassment and violence. What messages are your actions and attitudes projecting to your daughter? Do you ever find yourself judging or criticizing women based on their appearance? Do you give the indirect or direct message that the survivor of sexual assault or harassment is wholly or partially to blame because of the way she was dressed, how she acted, where she was, etc.? Just asking a question about what a victim is wearing, for example, sends a blaming message.

2. E-mail or call your daughter's school and simply ask for a copy of their sexual harassment policy. If you have a student handbook, you may find it there. Being respectful, polite but direct will yield the best results. An initial e-mail can be as simple as:

I (we) have started to educate myself (ourselves) on sexual harassment and assault in middle and high school. I just read that research shows how a strong and well-enforced school policy on sexual harassment and violence can drastically reduce its occurrence. After seeing that, I realized that I should be more familiar with what our school's policy is in this area. Would you please send me or let me know where I can find our school's complete policy on sexual harassment and assault?

Thank you so much for your help on this matter and all that you do to support our children's wellbeing. 

Hint: Enlist a few other parents to join you if this feels intimidating. Knowing someone has your back is empowering. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: Please remember that this blog series is not meant to replace professional support for you or any individual. If you have any concerns whatsoever about your welfare and safety or that of anyone around you, please seek medical or other professional help immediately.

RECOMMENDED: Top 5 bullying myths

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Paula Grieco blogs at What’s Your Brave .


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