Kick verbal abuse, sexual innuendos off Maine game fields
On Thursday October 12, while playing in a varsity soccer game at Hampden Academy, several members of my team, the Camden Hills Regional High School Windjammers, and I were sexually harassed by a group of boys who were in the student section of the Hampden fans.
Those boys were yelling sexually explicit innuendos specifically directed at me, and loud enough for other players and fans to hear.
While I was on the field, trying to focus on the game, I waited for an adult to speak up and stop their unacceptable and offensive behavior. The catcalls were incredibly distracting, and they went on for approximately 30 minutes.
The sexual innuendos, shouted at me were upsetting, to say the least. They distracted me from my game, and made me feel demoralized.
After the game, I spoke to my coach about what had occurred, hoping that someone would take action and to prevent anything like this from happening again.
I imagined that I would at least receive some sort of acknowledgement that the behavior was wrong, and that I would receive an apology. Instead, I was met with silence and denial from Hampden school administrators.
I waited for the athletic director of Hampden Academy, who was standing below the student section, to speak up. He didn’t.
My parents emailed the Hampden Academy principal later that night, expressing their concern about what had happened.
Principal C. William Tracy’s reply was that never before had there been an issue of sexual harassment at Hampden Academy, implying that my story could not possibly be true.
“Our AD informed me that Camden AD could not verify, after meeting with some students, that there was awareness of inappropriate behavior,” wrote RSU 22 Superintendent Richard Lyons, in an email to my parents.
The Hamden High School code of conduct states: “RespectfulHonest/Ethical, Responsible, Compassionate/Empathic. The Board believes that each member of the school community should take responsibility for his/her own behavior. To that end, the board recognizes the need to define unacceptable student conduct, identify the possible consequences for unacceptable conduct, and ensure that discipline is administered fairly, promptly, and appropriately.”
Despite this, I was asked to verify my experience.
I sought verification of my account from other players’ parents, and got it. Two parents came forward, saying that they heard comments directed at me on the field.
After jumping through all the hoops, going through the proper protocols, and notifying adults in positions of power to get some sort of response to the actions of my harassers, I was ignored and discounted.
I have had enough of the silence. I have been to many, many soccer games over the course of my high school career, and have never heard comments like the ones shouted at me during that game.
While we are playing in games, we are asked to remain silent and ignore any harassment that we might face.
I have had enough of the silence.
Nobody, no matter one’s gender, should be subjected to harassment of any kind, especially during a sporting event.
No one should be discounted and ignored when they try to raise their concerns regarding sexual harassment, especially by adults in positions of authority whose responsibility is to take action to prevent it.
I was not the only one to come forward about this behavior. Other girls from my team, and girls from the Camden Hills field hockey team, came forward with similar complaints.
They, too, have been met with silence.
I understand that there is necessary confidentiality rules employed during school investigations; however, that does not justify the complete disregard for the victims of this kind of abuse.
Girls should not have to be worried or scared to step onto a playing field. We should never have any reason to be concerned that someone is going to harass us or shout sexual comments at us.
Personally, I'm ready to speak up for myself and for other victims of such abuse. Let's end the silence by standing up to those who would want to ignore the issues faced by so many women.
Change needs to happen in the scholastic sports community, and everywhere else. It’s time to end sexual harassment.
Isabelle Lang is goal tender on the State Champion Camden Hills Regional High School Girl’s Soccer Team