By Maggie Mallon. Photos: Stocksy.
A comprehensive report published by the National Women's Law Center (NWLC) on Wednesday revealed the extent of obstacles that young girls face in completing their education—including the alarmingly high rate that teenage girls experience sexual assault.
A total of 1,003 girls between the ages of 14 and 18 participated in an anonymous survey in January of this year conducted by NWLC and Lake Research Partners. The goal of the report, titled Let Her Learn: Stopping School Pushout, was to examine the challenges teen girls face at school and how they often prevent young women from successfully completing their education. Girls throughout the country were included in the research, and black, Latina, Asian/Pacific Islander, Native American, and LGBTQ girls were all oversampled (and, according to the report, "weighted by age, race, and census region to reflect the actual proportions of the population").
According to the report, nearly 1 in 5 teens (21 percent) reported being sexually assaulted—defined by NWLC as being kissed or touched without their consent—and when factoring in other types of violence, it jumped to 1 in 3 (31 percent). For black, Latina, and Native American girls, the percentage who experienced sexual assault was above the overall average (at 22 percent, 24 percent, and 23 percent, respectively) and it jumped to 38 percent for LGBTQ teens. Six percent of girls surveyed said they had been forced to have sex against their will, and that number rose to 15 percent for LGBTQ teens, 11 percent for Native American girls, 9 percent for black girls, and 7 percent for Latina girls.
“I feel they teach girls to cover their selves but they don’t teach boys to respect women. They don’t teach boys to respect girls," one of the survey participants said in the report. "They don’t teach boys to keep your hands to yourself or to always ask for consent. They don’t teach boys that. They teach us how to avoid it and that to me is kind of like they blame us and slut shaming and I don’t like that at all.”
Other disturbing findings from the survey revealed that racial and ethnic slurs were common for girls of color: 32 percent of black, 34 percent of Latina, 46 percent of Asian or Pacific Islander, and 45 percent of Native American girls all reported being on the receiving end of such language. And 14 percent of girls overall said they would be absent from school because they felt unsafe either going to and from school or even being in the classroom.
The report's authors fear that the traumatic experiences of the teen girls can push many of them out of the education system and have a detrimental long-term effect on their socioeconomic livelihood as adults. The NWLC is calling on lawmakers to expand the protections of Title IX and is urging policymakers to provide educators with "mandatory, culturally responsive, gender responsive, and trauma-informed training on bullying, harassment and sexual violence and how to identify and support sexual violence and trafficking survivors."
But despite the distressing results of the NWLC report, there is one bright spot: An overwhelming majority of the girls surveyed (80 percent) are optimistic about their future and 42 percent see themselves as future leaders.
This story originally appeared on Glamour.
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