The phenomenon of sexually harassing behavior begins at a young age. Research conducted in Israel (Giladi, 2004) found that about 20% of children's' games between the ages of 5 to 8 include elements of sexual harassment. Sexually charged behaviors—for example, forcibly pulling down a child’s pants, kissing without mutual consent, touching and holding genital areas--are usually viewed as a curiosity by children or as mischievous behavior by adults, but not as sexual harassment. For many children, however, these behaviors have long-term consequences.
With this in mind, there is an acute need to speak with children about these themes from an early age in order to prevent such undesirable behaviors repeating themselves at later stages of life. The program "Getting Along", brought to life by the use of stuffed animals, aims at creating a safe environment for children to discuss these issues and improve their sense of security. This unique program, which has been approved by the Israeli Ministry of Education, targets children in kindergarten, and the first and second grades.
The program begins with a series of introductory lectures involving school staff and interested parents. These lectures help participants to identify different forms of sexual harassment and possible prevention strategies. Teachers, principals and parents frequently bring up cases of problematic behaviors during these lectures, for which they feel that they lack appropriate responses.
In the next stage, specially trained facilitators begin implementing the carefully structured eight-week program. During each two hours weekly meeting, facilitators-- with the help of a turtle, a snail, and a frog--introduce pupils to the concepts of respect turtle, dignity snail, and equality frog, using interactive stories, discussions and classroom activities. The children also learn about their bodies and the boundaries of personal space and begin to identify emotions related to sexual harassment. They learn about the obligation of reporting incidences of sexual harassment and, at the end, create a program of personal safety.
The “Getting Along” program provides school staff and children with specific knowledge about, and courses of action for coping with, the phenomenon of sexual harassment and its prevention. The resources in this practical toolkit continue to serve the teachers and principals following the program’s completion, by fostering a classroom environment of mutual respect and empowerment.
The "Getting Along 10"
In recent years, technology-driven bullying and sexual harassment through computers, cell phones, and other electronic equipment, have become more prevalent than face-to face bullying and other forms of sexual harassment. Photo images, visual and text messages and short film clips are conveyed at all hours of the day and night, reaching a very wide audience. Examples include: hurtful text messages sent via the cell phone or internet, sexually oriented rumors spread via electronic mail or social networks, and embarrassing or humiliating video clips distributed through web-based networks. These and other forms of sexually charged materials can have destructive implications for their recipients. Among children and youth they can reduce the desire to attend school, decrease their self-confidence, lower academic achievement, and even provoke suicidal thoughts and attempts.
Moreover, children are increasingly exposed to frequent incidences of violence, especially harsh sexual violence, through multiple and easily accessible technology and communication modes. There is a growing need to create a protected and safe environment for young children. Studies indicate that ages 9 and 10 (third and fourth grades) are an especially impressionable time period to teach children to properly use the internet.
Voice of the Child offers a comprehensive program, aimed at children ages 9 and 10, to protect themselves from the inherent dangers of the internet. It includes increased awareness, the setting of clear boundaries about what is permissible and what is forbidden, and formal (and non-formal) programs in values education.
At the beginning of the program a series of lectures about technology-driven bullying and sexual harassment is provided to a school's educational staff and parents. During the lectures, teachers, principals and parents learn how to identify, address and prevent the phenomenon. Frequently they bring up concrete cases of behaviors that have concerned them but for which they had minimal knowledge how to respond.
In the second phase, Voice of the Child facilitators implement a specially structured program in select classrooms. The once a week, two hour meetings are organized over the course of eight weeks. The program focuses on developing rules for a more ‘balanced’ computer use when children surf the internet and for the prevention of computer-based intentional bullying and sexual harassment. The pupils view short film clips and conduct classroom discussions on the theme of surfing the internet in a safe manner.
During the eight-week course, pupils learn how to treat themselves and each other with respect and how to relate to one another in an egalitarian manner. They learn about bullying and forceful behavior related to sexual harassment and to the notion of what is good or bad touching. The pupils also learn about the obligation of reporting harassing incidence, the nature of sexual stereotypes, which may lead to sexual harassment, and a program for self safety.
The Getting Along 10" Prevention program supplies information and coping strategies to both pupils and school staff to more effectively deal with incidences of sexual harassment and their prevention in the future. These practical tools continue to serve and support teachers following the conclusion of the program. The program has been shown to empower children, foster mutual respect, and improve the classroom environment.
“Getting Along – Big Time” –
A Sexual Harassment
The program "Getting Along – Big Time" targets pupils in the fifth and sixth grades. The beginning of adolescence in these grades is accompanied by physical, social, and emotional changes. These changes often impinge on an adolescent’s self-confidence and self-esteem. They can also bring about feelings of confusion and misunderstanding regarding sexually inappropriate and harassing behaviors, how to define boundaries of appropriate behavior and how to recognize when these boundaries are crossed. Especially among adolescents, sexual harassing behavior has been shown to result in eating disruptions, low self-esteem, and withdrawal from social interactions.
The "Getting Along – Big Time" program begins by organizing a series of thematic discussions with the school staff and parents. These lectures help participants to identify different forms of sexual harassment and possible prevention measures. During these discussions, teachers, principals and parents frequently bring up concrete instances of problematic behaviors, for which they often feel incapable of responding.
In the next stage, specially trained facilitators begin implementing the carefully structured eight-week program. During each two-hour weekly meeting, facilitators use stories, plays, discussions, short films, and other activities to introduce pupils to the concepts of respect, equality, and bullying and force, which they see as linked to sexual harassment. They learn about the obligation of reporting harassing behaviors, the legal basis for preventing sexual harassment and the illegality of specific behaviors by the Israeli legal system. The "Getting Along – Big Time" program takes up a range of inter-related themes—for example, ostracism of students by their peers, intentional bullying, and sexual harassment within an intimate relationship. The pupils also learn about smart and safe usage of the internet and building a program for personal safety. The program accompanied by an original rap-style song that illustrate causes of sexually harassing behavior. An important dimension of the program is the gender perspective: facilitators use different mass media to help students grapple with a range of gender related issues and sexual stereotypes and what it means to create a respectful, safe and non-judgmental environment. Students also discuss ways of changing existing social norms--for example, by writing letters to well known Israeli companies about how their products and advertising promote gender inequality.
Like other Association programs, the "Getting Along – Big Time" program has been approved by the Israeli Ministry of Education. and it contributes values to the daily cultural dialogue of the pupils. The program uses cultural dialogue and discussions to address important values and to improve the pupils’ sense of personal security. The program provides school staff and children with immediate knowledge about, and courses of action for coping with, the phenomenon of sexual harassment and its prevention. AS such it empowers both teachers and students and fosters a classroom environment of mutual respect and tolerance.