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Readers Blog: Educate kids to deal with harassment

Unless you have been living under a rock lately you can’t fail to have heard the enormous amounts of stories coming to light about inappropriate behaviour, sexual harassment and
unwanted attention.

If the Hollywood superstars have gotten away with it, if famous and powerful people have a history of this behaviour then you can rest assured it is going on all throughout society too.

What gives them the right to carry on in such a way?

Power and wealth does not give anyone an automatic right to take whatever they please regardless.

It seems the old adage “absolute power corrupts absolutely” has been proved correct.

It suggests that a person’s sense of morality decreases as his or her power increases.

But if equally powerful women in that society and indeed in politics and other walks of life have experienced harassment and innuendo and unwelcome and unwarranted attention then what hope have the rest of us?

More importantly how do we teach our daughters they don’t have to accept this type of attention and how do we teach our sons this is unacceptable?

Suppose one of our teenage daughters met a pop star or sports star or actor or some other idol of theirs in a lift and they were subjected to unwanted and unwelcome advances through no fault of their own.

Would they have the confidence, the self-assurance, the courage to defend themselves, stand up for themselves and report the incident?

Or would they be frozen in shock, paralysed by fear and unable to deal with it?

There is no way of knowing how you will react in such a situation until it happens. No amount of preparation can prepare you for such a thing.

So how best to explain this frightening scenario to children and teenagers without scaring them enough so that they become afraid to leave the house?

Well, firstly they need to understand that just like all other kinds of bullying, sexual harassment can involve comments, gestures, actions or attention that is intended to hurt, offend or intimidate.

The focus will be purely on a person’s appearance, physical characteristics, sexual orientation or sexual activity.

It may well be verbal but doesn’t necessarily have to be spoken. By this I mean it can be all carried out through our beloved social media accounts.

It’s important to realise that despite all the emerging stories, sexual harassment doesn’t just happen to girls. Boys or men can harass girls, but girls are just as capable of harassing the guys too, and sometimes this is more sinister as it is even less likely to be identified and reported.

We need to empower our children to stand up for themselves, recognise what is a gentle flirtatious comment and downright harassment, and understand the difference between the two.

Teach them to question how certain comments or behaviour makes them feel. Give them the confidence and the permission to say no, this isn’t OK.

Let them know it’s OK to speak up and that they will always be listened to, without judgment.

Our sons and daughters need to be educated as to what is and is not appropriate and they both need to be given the confidence to stay “stop”.

Until this happens, the cycle of powerful people taking advantage will continue.

Aideen Glynn

Ballinakill Downs

Co Waterford



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