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Feeling Safe: What Girls Say

By Judy Schoenberg, Ed.M., Toija Riggins, Ph.D., and Kimberlee Salmond, M.P.P. (New York, N.Y.: Girl Scouts of the USA, 2003). 114 pp. (Executive Summary, 23 pp.)

Feeling SafeHow safe do girls feel? What are the negative effects of girls feeling unsafe? How important are emotional and physical safety to girls? How can adults make girls feel safe? These are questions of increasing concern to researchers, youth development and community organizations, educators, counselors, and other adults working with girls. To better understand how girls perceive safety, the Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA), in partnership with Harris Interactive, Inc., conducted Feeling Safe: What Girls Say, a national (online and focus group) study of over 2,000 girls ages 8-17.

The Feeling Safe: What Girls Say study explores girls'

The findings in this study demonstrate that feeling emotionally safe is as important as being physically safe. Furthermore, what is of most concern to girls is navigating their everyday world—home, school, social settings, and routine activities—and developing trust and positive relationships with others.

Download the Feeling Safe: What Girls Say executive summary (PDF). For more information about the research, or to order a hard copy of the executive summary or full report of the study, email the Girl Scout Research Institute or call (800) GSUSA 4 U.

Top 5 Tips for Adults: Helping Girls Cope with Feeling Unsafe

  1. Be proactive about asking how girls feel, even if they are reluctant to talk. Don't assume to know what they consider important and don't expect them to automatically share their concerns with parents or other adults.

  2. Encourage working together to establish guidelines for responsible behavior. Do not judge, threaten, lecture, issue orders, or try to "teach girls a lesson" by withholding help.

  3. Realize that a safe location is not enough. Trusted relationships, in which girls feel valued and supported, are what make girls feel emotionally safe.

  4. Take emotional harm seriously. Typical environments, such as classrooms, sports fields, or group meetings often create situations that cause anxiety in girls. Hurtful teasing, gossiping, and name-calling should be addressed by both adults and girls together.

  5. Make safety a shared goal—one that girls don't have to deal with alone. For example, adults involved in Girl Scouting, including STUDIO 2BSM, need to partner with girls and encourage them to share their real-life concerns.

Adapted from Feeling Safe: What Girls Say, a study conducted by the Girl Scout Research Institute (GSRI), in conjunction with Harris Interactive, Inc.