“I was walking in the hallways trying to get back to my class after I had gotten some water, when a group of three or four boys started following me. They hollered at me asking for my number and calling me things like “baby” or “sweetie” when I had clearly never met them before. After showing I was not interested and continuing to walk away from them they continued to follow me until I hid in the girls bathroom until they went away.”
This is not just a made up scenario, but an actual event that took place in the walls of Barnstable High School. The above story is from the perspective of a sophomore girl who experienced this harassment earlier this year. The sophomore, who wished to remain anonymous, went on to explain how uncomfortable she feels in the hallways now, how she’s always looking over her shoulder, and when she sees groups of boys wandering the halls is always expecting the worst. She claimed that boys are taught differently from girls at a young, impressionable, age.
“It is bluntly pushed aside on how fast a boy can make a girl student feel uncomfortable even in a place with adults present almost everywhere. We must start the conversation to male students on how to respect their fellow classmates and how teachers can help young girls feel safer in the school environment,” said the sophomore girl.
Another sophomore girl shared her experience of a group of boys trying to lift her dress up as she was walking up the stairs to class.
“I entered the staircase and immediately noticed a group of three or four boys snickering and laughing behind me but thought nothing of it. One of them started getting closer behind me and attempted to grab the bottom of my skirt and lift it up before I pulled away as fast as I could and ran up the stairs into my class.”
The sophomore is now too scared to even wear a dress to school in fear of harassment, which, she said,
“Us girls at Barnstable should not be scared or in fear to wear an outfit because young boys don’t understand that touching, or attempts at it, catcalling and harassment are never ok based on what a girl chooses to wear.”
The Barnstable High School student handbook states that harassment of any students by anyone will not be tolerated. The handbook says harssment based on race, sex, or gender orientation are all punishable by suspension or expulsion. Though many cases don’t usually reach this point due to many girls failing to report assault or harassment, out of fear or embarrassment. Neither student who spoke to Insight reported the incidents to their deans.
“Roughly 80% of students in public schools have experienced sexual harassment by school administration or personnel or by their peers but only 18% of students report it to authorities or the school,” according to the American Association of University Women.
A senior girl explained that outside of school is where even more sexual harassment problems happen for female students.
“Instances have occurred where I have quickly needed to get my friends out of situations or areas where boys have given drinks to unknowing girls who had no idea what they contained to gain an advantage over them,” she said.
“Other times I needed to get my friend away from a group of boys who we knew through school, and thought we trusted, who continued to touch her and comment things about her when she repeatedly asked to go home,” said the senior girl.
This isn’t just a problem girls face in their day-to-day life, but harassment can be constant in an online environment. Many people can be much bolder and use pressure or persuasion tactics to get a girl to do something. Since there’s not much someone can do to stop online harassment, the anonymous sophomores and seniors asked male students to stand up to friends they see making girls uncomfortable and sympathize with victims. They stated that instead of standing with their friends to fit in, try to become more aware of the situations that happen every day to girls in the classroom, or in their community.