I’m a girl; therefore, I’m afraid
- 3 Posts
- Age 25
Every time I find myself alone at home, I always make sure—usually several times—that my front door is locked. Every time I walk alone, I always look behind my back and check my surroundings to make sure I’m not being followed. Every time I walk to my car, I hold the keys in my hand, and as soon as I’m inside, I lock the door, turn on the headlights, and start the engine.
I do all of that—and many other similar behaviors—because I’m afraid; and I’m afraid because I’m female.
I grew up in the most dangerous state for girls and women in my home country, Brazil. News on rapes and domestic violence were daily occurrences. I wasn’t allowed to walk alone, and if I were to walk somewhere with my girlfriends, we always made sure we had at least one guy with us, as that made us less of a target. In my early teens, I saw friends being constantly harassed by guys in our school and watched in disbelief as teachers and school staff ignored the guys’ behaviors. I didn’t know back then what “harassment” meant, but I knew that those behaviors were not ok.
UN Women defines sexual violence as “any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances against a person’s sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting.” Sexual harassment constitutes behaviors such as “unwanted deliberate touching, leaning over, cornering, or pinching” and “unwanted sexual looks or gestures.” It is hard for me today to accept that what I saw taking place in my school towards my friends and other girls my age was indeed, sexual harassment—but that’s what it was.
My fears due to my gender were not—and still are not—without basis. Statistics show a terrifying picture of violence against women—and particularly girls—in both my home country and worldwide. Of the rape cases registered in Brazil in 2016, 50.9% were committed to a victim that was under the age of 13, and 17% against teenage girls between the ages of 14 and 17. According to international estimates, around 50% of sexual assaults are committed against girls under the age of 16.
I’m a firm believer in the power of education, and I believe educating boys and girls early in life on what constitutes sexual violence and harassment is an essential step towards changing these statistics.
I can only hope for—and fight for—a world in which girls won’t have to live in fear simply for being girls; a world where they’ll be able to say, “I’m a girl; therefore, I’m unafraid.”