Within the past year, the #MeToo movement has raised national awareness of the harassment and violence women face on a daily basis, but a new campaign aims to direct attention to younger victims as well.
On October 15, exactly a year after #MeToo went viral on social media, the Girls Inc. chapters of Greater Santa Barbara and Carpinteria announced their new campaign, #GirlsToo. “The campaign is really about girl development,” said Barbara Ben-Horin, CEO of Girls Inc. of Greater Santa Barbara. “We want people to know the toll that sexual harassment can have on youth.”
The first year of the campaign is focused on awareness — seven in 10 girls are sexually harassed by the time they leave high school, and many hear boys making sexual comments on a weekly basis. Through #GirlsToo, the goal is to address the stereotypes and social norms that fuel this behavior. According to spokesperson Kristen Weaver, “Our organization led with the #GirlsToo movement because combating bullying, harassment, and sexual violence is the number one issue girls face every day.”
Affiliate organizations across Canada and the United States are also now committing to translating girls’ most pressing concerns into action. “Girls across the country are advocating for more leaders and adults in their lives to recognize that it’s not just women, but youth that are affected,” said Weaver. “Girls can’t do this alone. They need the commitment of the whole community to enact change.”
People can make their pledge to support the movement on the Girls Inc. website. Depending on whether they identified themselves as youth, educators, or guardians, they are offered options including resources for harassment victims and ways for adults to become more informed.
“It is imperative people make the connection on how assault impacts girls,” Weaver said. “Often, harassment affects girls’ ability to stay in school, changing the direction of their lives later on. Violence is not an isolated issue.”
The program’s national outreach is already making headway. At a recent conference in Washington, D.C., 300 Girls Inc. representatives encouraged elected officials to take the pledge themselves, as well as share the #GirlsToo movement within their own networks.