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Annie Fox, M.Ed., is an internationally respected parenting expert, award-winning author, and a trusted online adviser for tweens and teens.

They stole your bra?!!

September 9, 2014

This recent email has me vibrating with rage. I know. I know. I’m supposed to manage my destructive emotions. Take re-centering breaths and all that. But as a woman, a mom, and an educator, this one has me ready to strangle someone.

I'm not going back there.

I’m not going back there.

Just read it and tell me what you think:

Hey Terra,

I just started freshman year and I have to take swim class. I have large breasts and the girls in the class make fun of me in the shower and in the pool. Today, while we were swimming, one girl went into my locker and stole my bra. I had to get dressed for my next class without a bra!! Do you have any idea how humiliated I felt walking around like that? Guys were staring at me and a few guys tried to touch my breasts! That’s what I had to go through for two whole periods until my mom came and brought me a bra.  This is the first year of high school and I’m a joke already. All my friends are at another school so I’ve got no one who has my back. – Who Cares?

Before you read my answer, here’s my video response on Vidoyen:

How do we teach kids that cruel is not cool? posted by Annie Fox, M.Ed. on Vidoyen.

My Answer:

Dear Who Cares?

First, let me say that I care. A lot!

Second let me say… WOAH!!! What happened to you today is beyond awful. It is also totally unacceptable. For starters, shaming you about your body, having people stare at your breasts and try to touch you… all of this is sexual harassment and it’s against the law.

I understand how awful you feel, but please talk to your PE teacher ASAP! (That’s who runs the swimming class, right?) She or he (hopefully it’s a she) but either way, the PE teacher needs to know immediately what happened today. No way should any girl get away with going into your locker and stealing anything! But a girl stealing another girl’s bra… that’s so cruel I am actually seeing red. (That’s how angry I am right now.) And no boy should get away with trying to touch you without your permission! (Give me a break, guys. What idiot told you that’s ever OK?!)

I get that you might not want to talk about this, but you wrote to me for advice and I’m giving it to you. Talk to your mom right now. Get off the computer and talk to her. You think that “no one has your back.” Not true! Your mom has your back. She proved that today. She can help you. She wants to. If you were my daughter I would tell you this, “I am so sorry that this happened to you. My heart is breaking to hear about it. I know how humiliating this must have been! We need to work together, you and I, to make things better for you at school. Better for you with the girls in your gym class and better for you with those ignorant boys who bother you and made you feel even more uncomfortable when you walk down the hall. You need to let the school know what happened. If you feel you can call for this meeting on your own, then go for it. But if you need my support to call the school and set up a meeting with the PE teacher and the counselor and school administration, then I am here for you 1000%.”

Talk to your mom right now… before another day of school.

OK, sweetie?

In friendship,
Terra

If you or anyone you know, has had an experience involving sexual harassment or “body shaming” at school, I want to hear about it in the COMMENTS section. Thanks.

Filed under: Cruel's Not Cool,Teens,Tweens — Tags: , , — Annie @ 5:20 pm
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10 Comments »

  1. Respect and safety are my number one concern in my classroom. Making art is the class, but the larger picture is relationships and respect. I was flabbergasted by the incident. If it were my daughter… I’d be on the phone with the school immediately. I’d be in the office. I hope and pray she had the courage to talk more with her mom, the coach, the principal, administration, everyone who needs to have her back (morally, socially, and legally). Shame on her classmates. Take care of yourself, everyone. Take care of each other.

    Comment by Frank korb — September 9, 2014 @ 5:46 pm

  2. Thanks for being the kind of teacher who doesn’t turn a blind eye to this harassment, Frank. I love what you said, “Making art is the class, but the larger picture is the relationships and respect.” Your students are so fortunate to have your mentorship.

    Comment by Annie — September 9, 2014 @ 5:51 pm

  3. This is the reality of how cruel kids are…it starts in elementary school and by the time High School rolls around these mean girls make it their mission to pick a target and attempt to destroy anothers self esteem. Bullying is an epidemic and it’s real. What this beautiful young girl was feeling was real and administrators and faculty many times turn a blind eye to it. They want to call it anything but what it is and often times make the victim feel as though somehow they have contributed to this horrible behavior and that’s why it happened. People wonder why “kids don’t tell!” Why should they when the perpetrators continue to get away with the abusive and disrespectful behavior? What we allow will always continue and until school systems start serving up true consequences for such hurtful and hateful actions there will be no true change. I hope with all my heart this young woman realizes that many of us do care and want her to stay strong and know it does get better. Realize that these years, even though they are painful, are a small piece of a great life that awaits her. @tmotola

    Comment by Tammy Motola — September 10, 2014 @ 9:03 am

  4. Hi Tammy, thank you so much for this thoughtful comment. I strongly encouraged the girl to let the administration know what happened so that they can send a strong message supporting the kind of character that schools ought to be in the business of developing in their students. As you so eloquently say, “many of us do care” and that’s why we need to stay determined to use every opportunity we have to teach kids to be good people.

    Comment by Annie — September 10, 2014 @ 9:38 am

  5. My heart in Oz goes out to this poor girl, as a parent this would be my worst nightmare for me and my child. I had a situation where my son was cyber bullied by his ‘school mates’ posting a video of him tripping over during a PE activity. When I found out and contacted the VP their reaction was swift and affirmative to my son. Within 24 hours all parents and students involved/associated with the posting were called in. The VP provided evidence to all present of who posted and had viewed such video (don’t know how they did this-maybe school network). All involved had a notation placed on student records for 2 years, made to apologise immediately and put same in writing with a promise never to do so again with a threat of expulsion hanging over their head. All parents were asked to revoke their students social media access at home for the remainder of the school year and confirm in writing this had been done. I was so upset that my son had been betrayed by his ‘friends’ but then so relieved the school had in place a proactive anti-bullying policy. Their pastoral care & follow up was also positive over the next 6 months always checking on my son and how he was coping and recovering his personal esteem. Eventually my son worked out who his real friends were at school and he has maintained these friends right through and even now whilst he is 3 years out and studying social work at Uni. I hope this girl’s school shows the same strength and support to their student and jumps on this behaviour immediately. She must speak out and not let it fester.

    Comment by Vince — September 15, 2014 @ 12:48 am

  6. Hello Vince. What a strong and positive response you and your son got from his school. What you described from the VP is what I call Moral Leadership. This VP is an educator who knows what it means to be a guide and mentor to children. Unfortunately, to date, the girl’s school has not shown the same strength and support for her, her parents, or (I might add) for the perpetrators of this harassment… because those kids too need education and support. How else will they learn empathy, compassion, and respect for others?

    Comment by Annie — September 16, 2014 @ 5:50 pm

  7. I am so proud of this young lady for reaching out to you and taking a stand to say that this is unacceptable. What a horrible welcome to her new school. I’m with your other readers who applaud her strength and resilience. And, while the girls who did this and the boys who made it worse may never face appropriate consequences for their actions, I hope with my whole heart that the school will do right by this newcomer to their family. When we turn a blind eye, we’re saying that it’s okay with us the way she’s being treated … and it’s NOT. It’s not only unethical what she has gone through, it’s unlawful. I just can’t imagine a school administrative team that wouldn’t want to protect their children and keep them safe in a climate of kindness and culture of caring. Thank you, Annie Fox, for providing your readers with a safe haven where they’re cared for, nurtured, listened to, understood, and loved.

    Comment by Barbara — September 17, 2014 @ 1:23 pm

  8. Thank you, Barbara, for adding your support of this girl and for your kind words about my work. You’re right, she is strong and resilient. Makes me wonder how many other girls and boys face harassment every day at school and suffer in silence. I’m very proud of this girl and I am with you 1000% in hoping that her school does the right thing in this situation. The right thing would be to get the parents of the perpetrators involved in this Golden Teachable Moment so that those children can learn some essential life lessons about empathy, respect, compassion, and social courage. The right thing would also be to give this girl the opportunity to confront her harassers (in safe environment) so that she can take back her power and let them know (with their parents right there) how their choice to harass and humiliate her made her feel. And the right thing to do would be to open up a school-wide conversation about sexism, racism and homophobia (which often is a trigger for harassment in middle and high schools). Moral leadership on the part of the school administration could go a long way in improving the climate in this school.

    Comment by Annie — September 17, 2014 @ 1:42 pm

  9. Omg who cares if u got big breast probably those girls were jealous?

    Comment by Myself — October 8, 2014 @ 7:45 am

  10. Totally awful right? I agree with you. Those girls were probably jealous and jealousy can drive us to do hurtful things!

    Comment by Annie — October 8, 2014 @ 7:57 am

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