Q: [Kid to Teen] Is the #MeToo topic something I should address with my younger kids?
A: Girls Inc. believes we all have a role to play in building a culture of respect for girls, which is one of the reasons why we launched the #GirlsToo campaign, with actions aimed at addressing the norms and stereotypes that fuel these behaviors early.
Sexual harassment and violence is an epidemic facing adults, but the problem starts at a much younger age. Girls in middle and high school face sexual harassment and violence, too. In fact, about seven in 10 girls are sexually harassed at some point in high school, and one in four girls will experience sexual violence before she turns 18.
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.
Parents should also encourage their kids to be “upstanders” who speak out about sexual harassment or violence when they see it, rather than staying passive bystanders. Other concrete, tangible actions parents can take include using examples of RESPECT:
- 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.
Lucy Santana is currently the CEO of Girls Inc. of Orange County, the oldest girl-centered organization in the U.S., which has been transforming girls’ views of themselves and their opportunities for generations through programs that focus on leadership, academic success, health and financial self-sufficiency.