In today’s New York Times, it was revealed that a study has found that nearly half of 7th to 12th graders experienced sexual harassment in the last school year. The study, which will be released on Monday, was conducted by the American Association of University Women, a nonprofit research organization. Harassment was defined as “unwelcome sexual behavior that takes place in person or electronically.”
“It’s pervasive, and almost a normal part of the school day,” said Catherine Hill, the director of research at the association and one of the authors of the report. The report indicates that whatever the medium, more girls were victims: 52 percent of girls said they had been harassed in person, and 36 percent online, compared with 35 percent of boys who were harassed in person and 24 percent online.
Here is what is most troublesome. Half of those who were harassed said they did nothing about it; 9 percent said they reported the incident to an adult at school; and 27 percent of students (32 percent of girls and 20 percent of boys) said they talked about it with a family member.
Could it be that at an early age, we are receiving the message that if you are harassed, it’s your own fault? And why aren’t our schools doing more to make parents aware of this epidemic?
A fourth woman has now come forward and is ready to tell her story regarding her allegations that Presidential candidate Herman Cain, sexually harassed her. Yet, Cain and the public appear to be moving on as if nothing happened.
It’s time to wake up people. Talk about sex and the impact of harassment with your children from an early age. Teach them that no means no and keep a watchful eye on their texts, tweets and social networks. If we can prevent harassment by making some changes at home, imagine what else we can do if we put our minds to it.
And for those of you in human resources who keep looking for online programs to teach your workforce about harassment so you can check off your box, I urge you to consider the impact harassment is having both on the victim and those who are keeping their nose to the grind hoping they can avoid becoming the next victim. Watching a video will do nothing to change people’s behavior. You must open up the dialogue in your organization so that people feel comfortable talking about what has become a very uncomfortable subject.
What solutions would you offer to resolve this pervasive problem?