Straight Talk Advice

Jan 25, 2006

Gropers rely on girls not saying ‘no’

Dear Straight Talk: Hey, go easy on the girls who get groped in public. The letter from “Undisclosed guy” who found it disgusting that his female classmates put up with being groped takes me back to my middle school days. I was a little more, er, developed, than other girls and would get groped EXACTLY like that on a daily basis! It was relentless—I remember hiding out in the bathroom, waiting for the group of guys who did this (often right in the hallway next to the school office) to go away. I told them to stop, but they wouldn’t—how’s a seventh-grader supposed to stand up to ninth-graders? I remember thinking that it must be normal behavior and, after awhile, let it continue. I so wish I knew then what I know now!

Keep up the good work. Your column is definitely a must-read.—Wiser in my twenties

From Rachel, 18: I’ve been through this, too, and I understand about not saying anything. You feel embarrassed and you hope if you say nothing it will go away. In middle school, especially, it’s all about wanting to be part of the cool group, so you keep your mouth shut.

In my situation, also in seventh grade, the groping got progressively worse. Finally, it got so bad that I’d had enough and said, “Stop it! Leave me alone!” When that didn’t work, I got the school counselor involved. The boys were brought in and warned that if it happened again they would be suspended. That stopped it, but it definitely affected my popularity because I was considered a tattletale. However, I’d rather be un-cool than harassed.

Dear Wiser: Interesting, isn’t it? “Undisclosed boy” perceived that girls, by not saying “no”, were encouraging the groping. Your and Rachel’s experience show that speaking up isn’t easy—and it doesn’t necessarily work—and when you seek out adult help, you risk your popularity.

From what I’m learning, groping is a big problem in middle school. For those girls who are bearing this in silence, I hope you are helped by these letters. Kids who consider you “un-cool” for defending yourself are not the kind of friends you want. There are plenty of others like “Undisclosed boy” who will find you even more attractive if you defend yourself.

When we don’t stand up to those who do us wrong, we are silently encouraging them. By speaking up and getting help, not only will you protect yourself from those who treat you as an object, you will earn new respect from those who value you as a person.


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