Sexual Assault At School: that's just the way it is...

Sexual Assault At School: that's just the way it is...

A few days ago
I blogged about the alarming amount of sexual harassment and assault going on in Ontario high schools. The Toronto District School Board's director of education Gerry Connelly is very concerned about how this hostility towards girls is becoming the “new normal.”

Connelly says, “A young girl will see somebody being pushed against a locker and fondled inappropriately, or they are being touched inappropriately and they say: 'Well, that's just the way it is.'

“21% of the students that were surveyed said that they knew at least one student who was sexually assaulted at school. Now there's sexual harassment, which is talking inappropriately and there's sexual harassment which is being touched inappropriately. So the 21% are talking about sexual assault.

“29% of Grade 9 girls ... felt unsafe at school partly due to sexual comments and unwanted looks or touches; 27% of the girls in Grade 11 admitted to being pressured into doing something sexual that they did not want to do; 14% of the females reported being harassed over the Internet.”

Read the CityNews article Girls Accepting Sexual Assault At School As Fact Of Life: Reports or the National Post's Girls accept sexual assault as 'way it is,' educator says. You can read some of the figures from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health's report on bullying (which surveyed 1,800 students from 23 high schools) here and see what girls have to say about the sexual harassment they and their peers are experiencing here.

Obviously the fact that our girls are facing such high levels of harassment and sexual violence at school is unacceptable and means that we, as a society, have dropped the ball when it comes to instilling respect for girls. It's a problem that isn't unique to Ontario and one that isn't going to disappear unless we address it with adequate countermeasures. Read why introducing a Women & Gender Studies course into the high school curriculum would be helpful at The Miss G_ Project website. You can also contact your MPP and the Minister of Education to let them know you support the idea.

As a student one thing you can do for yourself and your fellow students is to resist messages that these kinds of behaviours are inevitable and okay. Band together with like-minded students to challenge negative actions and comments where and when you can, like these two Novia Scotia students who encouraged hundreds of their fellow students to wear pink in response to a bullying incident.

Homophobia. Racism. Sexism. Threats. Harassment. Bullying. Assault. There should be no place for these things in our schools.

If you're a Toronto student experiencing or witnessing any kind of harassment, threats, violence or unwanted touching at school you can call the newly created Student Safety Line (416) 395-7233 (SAFE) and leave an anonymous message reporting personal or school safety concerns for the Toronto District School Board to follow-up on. Messages are checked regularly throughout the day and you don't need to leave your name.

Across Canada Kids Help Phone is a place you can call for anonymous phone counselling. The number is: 1-800-668-6868. In Australia contact Kids Help Line: 1-800-551-800. Childline is a free helpline for children and young people in the United Kingdom: 0800 1111. In Ireland the Childline number is: 1800 66 66 66. In the U.S.A. call Youth America Hotline to speak with a peer to peer counselor: 1-877-968-8454.

The Miss G_ Project discusses sexual assault and harassment in Ontario schools:

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