Preventing sexual violence and harassment from an early age

Sexual harassment prevention tools for children sees global reach

Sexual violence is a reality for millions of people worldwide, but for women and children in particular. Following her first-of-its-kind global research, Dr Ayelet Giladi, a world-renowned sociologist and expert on this phenomenon, reveals that every fifth child is going through some kind of sexual harassment that we don’t know about it.

Her research and subsequent 15 years in early childhood developmental educational programs through her Voice of the Child Association, also shows that people who sexually harass others often begin this behaviour in childhood.

Dr Ayelet Giladi, who works globally as a Consulting Educational Sociologist with government, academic, and educational practitioners in providing children with a voice and the tools for the prevention of sexual harassment from an early age, is also author of the book ‘Sexual Harassment: No Children’s’ Game – Preventing Sexual Harassment in the Educational System and the Community’.

“The phenomena of sexual harassment reached global awareness recently following high profile news stories in Hollywood celebrity circles which sparked the #Metoo campaign. It also brought awareness to the #MetooChildren campaign and reinforced the work of child rights protectors, educationists and parents worldwide. By bringing awareness in the prevention of sexual harassment in future generations of young children, we can circumvent the devastating effects of sexual harassment and sexual abuse we are witnessing today.”

Global Reach in Preventing Sexual Harassment

Following a recent educational business collaboration in South Africa, working with United Herzlia Schools, Waldorf Schools, and the Dream Factory, Dr Giladi says, “There is still a lot of work to be done. We think of sexual harassment and abuse as being between two adults, but it can originate a lot earlier. When children play, they learn norms and social patterns of behaviour. And if sexual harassment behaviours are ignored or allowed, it can continue into adulthood.

“Adults in general and children especially still have difficulty identifying violence and sexual harassment. We see this behaviour in children associated with social and cultural gender and as a result of the need to demonstrate power and gain social capital within their age group as a foundation of human behavior. It is necessary to provide children with parameters for flexible gender behavior early on, in order to relieve them of violent social stigma that would otherwise dictate their lifelong behavior.”

Sexual Harassment Prevention Programs

While her work is focussed on early childhood development programs for prevention from ages 5 – 16 years, Dr Giladi says her work is relevant to every facet of society. “The “boys will be boys” scenario is typical in all childhood environments, but it needs to change because it is actually sexual harassment. When I am training educators in my schools’ programs they are realising how socialised sexual harassment behaviours are within their classrooms, homes and greater society and how easily the line is crossed between game-playing to abusive positions of power and gender. As children develop, whether the child is the abuser or the victim, their behaviours continue into adulthood.”

To end the cycle of violence and to bring awareness to preventing the #Metoo phenomena from being enacted in our current developing children, Dr Giladi works with schools, teachers, parents, children, and caregivers across multiple countries in educating educators and training facilitators to run her workshops and implement her methods.

Her workshops explain what is acceptable and what is not, and empowers children to know how to react if they are sexually harassed. It also teaches children and parents how to put a stop to behaviours that begin in childhood which could lead to antisocial behaviour later on.

Age-appropriate Sexual Harassment Prevention Tools

Giladi works with children as young as four, because at this age, they begin to understand gender norms and the boundaries regarding their bodies. She also runs workshops and programs for teenagers who daily face the same sexual harassment challenges while interacting on social media. All the Voice of the Child Association programs are age-appropriate and relevant to all parents, not only those with girls.

“The most common sexual harassment we see is boys to girls, then boys to boys, then girls to girls, and then girls to boys. For example, boys might play a game where they squeeze the private parts of another boy if he misses scoring a goal in sport. Girls touch each other’s breasts to guess the cup size when they get their first bra. All of these constitute sexual harassment.

“When children behave like this, it is usually about power, as sexuality is not yet in play. Sexual harassment behaviours in children is usually seen by those children who are in the middle of the social pecking order, and want to gain access to the top of the hierarchy by doing something “illicit” or “brave”.

Research underpins Sexual Harassment Phenomena

Giladi’s work has been recognised by the Israeli government. Her Voice of Child Association received certification from the Israeli Ministry of Education, and she is recognised by ICASH (International Coalition against Sexual Abuse) for her contribution to sexual-abuse research.

“I’ve been researching this for 19 years, and the world is now ready to hear it,” says Giladi, referring to the #MeToo movement. “I want parents to know that they have the power to encourage a new dynamic between boys and girls, and that it is no longer acceptable to justify behaviour as “boys will be boys”. Ultimately, if we work to change this now, these children will not need a #MeToo movement when they are adults.

To learn more about the Voice of the Child Association educational programs or to book a workshop or presentation email Dr Giladi on cayeletgiladi@gmail.com.