There are about 1,300 girls who attend Leesville Road High School, and sadly almost all of them have stories dealing with some sort of harassment or worse. Whether it is directly related to Leesville or situations outside the school, addressing and fixing this issue is necessary.
In a recent Instagram poll, 22 girls who attend LRHS were asked if they have ever felt unsafe at LRHS because of being a girl — 15 said yes and 7 said no. Then when asked if they have ever felt unsafe in general as a woman in society, 100% responded yes.
While this only shows a very small sample, it is telling that when 100% of participants responded “yes” to the second poll, it did not surprise me or the poll participants in the least.
Exposed to all sorts of negative behavior, most often coming from men, girls have to be taught from a young age how to keep themselves safe. “My mom has educated me on a lot of different dangerous men and how to keep yourself safe so I’ve tried to tell my friends all of that information as well,” said Genevieve Fontenot, a senior at LRHS. “Keep people on the phone if you’re alone, keep your phone charged, share your location at all times with friends…be with people you know and trust, that’s the safest thing you can do,” said Fontenot, listing just a few of her own safety tips.
She then stated it was sad that she had to keep these things in mind at all times, and that even going to her car she has to make sure there is no one underneath or in the back seats before she can feel completely safe getting in.
Aliana Poillucci added to that. “I’ve felt the need to cover up around certain guys. I shouldn’t feel the need to do that. I have pepper spray with me at all times, I would love to work out at night outside…but that’s not an option for us because of how dangerous it is,” said Poillucci.
How Can We Make Leesville Safe?
Firstly, everyone must acknowledge how very real this is. “If you look at harassment and stuff like that…I feel like females have a harder time,” said Luke Holloway, a senior at Leesville. While both men and women are always at risk, women have historically had a harder time, and that fact needs to be recognized by all men as well.
Secondly, the inappropriate behavior at Leesville must be called out and punished. From personal experience and talking with other girls, many guys at this school think it is okay to make comments about girls’ bodies and objectify them.
“It’s just not very safe. I was wearing a skirt this one time and I was walking along and then these guys were behind me and one of them said like, ‘oh I wish they were shorter or I wish the wind would blow up…’ The way these guys are taught that that’s how to get attention from their other guy friends is not a good thing,” said an anonymous source. “The only thing I feel really safe wearing at school is baggy clothes. I love my body and I should be able to feel comfortable in school with it but I’m not,” they said.
There was also a “March Madness” bracket going around a while back rating girls based on their looks — what is even sadder is that this practice is so normalized that it has happened for years and years, and is in TV shows and movies. And probably will be around for many years to come.
“I want to say no, it is not super safe. I think during school hours there’s some monitoring so it keeps most extreme things from happening but then after school at football games or other events it’s not safe. There aren’t any measures taken to keep girls, or anyone for that matter, from getting hurt or harassed when they are just trying to have a good time,” said Fontenot, when asked if she thought the school provided a completely safe environment.
In a perfect world, no one would deal with harassment at any point, but it is especially important for this to be the case in school — school should be a safe place for all people, but girls worrying about receiving inappropriate comments hinders this goal.
What Can Guys Do?
The obvious answer is to not make comments and make girls feel uncomfortable from their actions. “In public, guys should try to keep their distance, especially if it’s a girl walking alone. Cross the street, don’t make eye contact, slow down,” said Fontenot.
“Be more aware of [their] body language, that’s a big thing,” said Poillucci.
Overall both agree that society should change so that it is not about parents teaching their daughters to stay safe, but parents teaching their sons how to interact with and respect women.
“If you see something, say something,” said Holloway. “If you see behavior like catcalling, sexual harassment, bullying, anything like that, use your platform and speak out, especially when the targets are not necessarily going to speak out for themselves.”
In the fight for women’s safety, transforming schools into a comfortable place for everyone to learn is one huge step to take, and with time and effort it can happen.
Hi! My name is Gretchen and I am a senior editor and SEO editor for The Mycenaean. I love to travel and listen to music.