Published by Dallas News
Sexual harassment and violence is an epidemic, and it’s affecting our girls.
Girls Inc. surveyed its entire network of girls in 2016 to better understand the issues they face. The top areas of concern were bullying, sexual harassment and sexual violence. The data on how these issues affect girls in our city and country is staggering.
Nearly 7 in 10 girls experience sexual harassment before they leave high school, according to research from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and according to research from the University of New Hampshire, 1 in 4 girls is the victim of sexual violence or abuse by age 18.ADVERTISING
In North Texas, the numbers are heartbreaking. According to a study by the DFW Hospital Council Foundation, 48 percent of reported sexual abuse and harassment victims were 17 years old or younger. The age for the highest number of reported cases was 10-14 years old, followed by ages 20-24.
The #MeToo movement sparked action and change in the political realm, entertainment industry and in the workplace, and it brought discussions about sexual harassment and violence against women into the mainstream. Young, impressionable children are hearing about sexual harassment on the news, on social media, at school and from friends and family. Unfortunately, this is not new information to many girls in our community.
A 2018 study by Plan International USA found that 3 out of 4 girls, ages 14-19, feel unsafe at least once in a while. In addition, more than half of girls ages 10-19 say they hear boys making sexual comments or jokes about girls several times a week.
While the #MeToo movement has offered a teaching opportunity for young people, it is an unfortunate reminder that girls — not just adult women — experience sexual harassment and violence.
We must take action to change the culture that fuels these harmful behaviors and provide girls the resources and support to be safe, healthy and prepared for the future.
Girls Inc. launched the #GirlsToo campaign in October, aimed at shifting the deeply entrenched norms that lead to sexual violence and to create a culture of respect for girls and all young people. The campaign aims to shine a light on the fact that sexual harassment and violence are not only happening to adult women.
We must provide girls the support to advocate for themselves and others, and join together to make sure our communities and schools are safe places for girls to grow up.
Beth Myers is chief executive of Girls Inc. of Metropolitan Dallas. Find information on taking the #GirlsToo pledge at girlsinc.org
JOIN THE MOVEMENT
#GirlsToo is a national campaign to shift the deeply entrenched norms that lead to sexual harassment and violence in our society, and to create a culture where all girls and young people grow up safe, respected, and valued. Join the pledge @ https://girlstoo.girlsinc.org/