#GirlsToo: Respect Starts Young
Alarmingly, about 7 in 10 girls are sexually harassed by the time they leave high school. A recently released survey of young girls between the ages of 14 and 19 found that 3 out of 4 girls feel unsafe at least once and while. The majority also said they hear boys making sexual comments at least several times a week.
“Sexual harassment and violence is an epidemic facing adults, but the problem starts at a much younger age,” said Judy Vredenburgh, president and CEO of Girls Inc. “The #GirlsToo campaign will focus on building a culture of respect for girls today and generations to come.”
As part of the launch, #GirlsToo is encouraging youth, adults and leaders to take the #GirlsToo pledge at girlstoo.girlsinc.org and be advocates for a more equitable society that values and promotes the dignity of girls and all young people. In addition, the campaign will also provide resources for girls, boys, parents and educators about how to discuss these issues and make changes in their lives and communities.
“The deeply entrenched norms about gender and identity first begin to take hold in early adolescence,” said Dr. Christia Spears Brown, a developmental psychologist and professor at the University of Kentucky. “These norms help to perpetuate the perception of women as sexualized objects and have harmful and lasting impacts for girls in particular.”
From an early age, young people receive limiting and harmful messages about how girls and boys should behave and be treated, which creates an imbalance of power that disproportionately affects girls of color, LGBTQ+ youth, girls with disabilities and girls from low-income communities. These norms and stereotypes follow them into adulthood and perpetuate attitudes and behaviors that can harm young girls and women alike.
“Environments are very powerful in shaping the experiences and perceptions that children have of women,” said Nina Ho, a college student at the University of California — San Diego who participated in Girls Inc. during high school. “What you’re taught from a young age gets ingrained in you, which is why it’s critical that we educate and empower boys and girls to treat women with respect and call out harassment when we see it.”
Girls Inc. believes we must unite to shift deeply entrenched norms, stop the sexual harassment and violence that girls face, and create a healthier, safer culture for all young people. Changing norms around sexual violence is possible, but it requires participation and commitment from everyone. There are concrete, tangible actions individuals can take to make a positive difference and create a culture of respect for girls and all young people, such as:
- Reflect – Reflect on your own biases and challenge gender stereotypes
- Educate – Educate youth about healthy relationships and consent
- Support – Support and believe survivors who come forward
- Promote – Promote policies and practices that foster a safe school climate
- Encourage – Encourage youth leadership and involvement in change
- Call Out – Call out words and actions that demean women and girls
- Take Action – Be an “upstander” and intervene to prevent harm
Girls Inc., along with its powerful network of girls and partners, will champion this change in the communities they serve and put forward solutions to prevent sexual harassment and violence and promote respect for girls.
“The best way to foster a community that’s rooted in respect is by making it a daily practice in our homes, schools and neighborhoods,” said Victoria Juarez, executive director of Girls Inc. of Carpinteria, CA. “When we treat each other with respect and teach our youth to do the same, we can achieve the type of culture change that significantly improves the lives of young people today and tomorrow.”