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Advocacy (advəkəsē), n.- to speak on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves.

NJ District Programs committee is proud to announce this year's advocacy focus: sexual harassment awareness, education, and prevention. Many students, teachers, and parents are unaware of the signs and consequences of sexual harassment which is why we chose this to be our advocacy focus. Sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal and physical conduct of a sexual nature.

When walking down the hallways in school, have you overheard a comment that seemed to go too far? Have you ever had a friend tell you a story which sounded like it may have been rape? Sadly, sexual harassment is part of daily life in almost every American middle school and high school. Catherine Hill, who is the former president of American Association of University Women (AAUW), conducted a survey in 2010 which showed that almost forty eight percent of students surveyed experienced some form of sexual harassment from 2010-11, a majority saying it had a negative effect on them. Girls are also more likely to be sexually harassed than boys (56% versus 40%); however, sexual harassment is a still a prevalent issue in males. Many of those who witness sexual harassment do not do anything about it since it seems normal which is a main reason that we are focusing on this topic.

The amount of reported cases of sexual harassment in grades seven to twelve is surprisingly high which is even more horrific since most cases of sexual harassment are not reported. Some of the psychological effects of sexual harassment include anxiety and depression. Sadly, many students who admitted to sexually harassing others did not believe they had made a mistake. Only a handful of students only harassed the victim with the desire to get a date (around 3%) since most harassers simply are not aware that what they are doing is wrong and do not know their actions bother others.

We have many goals that we would like to implement in the upcoming service year. All of these goals focus on informing others of the horrible reality that sexual harassment happens often in high school. We want to educate students, teachers, and parents about the effects, signs, and what to do about sexual harassment, educate others about when sexual harassment crosses the line to sexual assault, encourage students to speak up against sexual harassment, and eliminate the myths regarding sexual harassment. One way to complete this is to raise money for organizations such as RAINN, No More, National Sexual Violence Resource Center, and National Alliance to End Sexual Violence through fundraisers. With the help of the district we can assist in spreading awareness about sexual violence.

Source: Catherine Hill, Ph.D. "Crossing The Line: Sexual Harassment At School." AAUW: Empowering Women Since 1881, 2018, https://www.aauw.org/research/crossing-the-line/.