Young women are being subjected to verbal abuse and bullying around their periods, with many of those affected suffering in silence, according to a new survey.
One in five (20%) of 14-21 year olds has experienced teasing around their periods and made to feel shame, with only half (49%) telling anyone about it. This teasing and bullying often takes place in school – but for one in 10 girls, it has happened online.
Atlanta, 17, from Manchester, has experienced period stigma at school. “I’ve heard periods called awful, disgusting,” she said. “I’ve been told to ‘get over it’. When my friends and I would discuss periods, boys would tell us to be quiet.
“One boy even called me ‘dirty’ and refused to sit next to me in class after he overheard me talking about my period privately to a teacher. I was so embarrassed that I went home for the rest of the day.”
[Read More: 5 ways to speak to your kids about periods]
The survey of 1,000 girls, conducted by Plan International UK, was released to coincide with Menstrual Hygiene Day 2019 on 28 May.
One in 10 girls said they had been subjected to comments about being “dirty” or “disgusting”, while 36% had heard comments about their perceived mood or behaviour. Almost one in five (18%) had faced abuse about leaking, with 15% being teased about sanitary wear.
In addition to impacting girls’ self-esteem, this stigma had direct impact on their schooling. Two thirds (66%) reported missing a part day or full day of school because of their period, with commonly cited reasons including concerns about leaking (39%), anxiety about their period (28%) and embarrassment (19%).
Of those who had missed school due to their period, 40% struggled to catch up on school work as a result.
Tanya Barron, chief executive at Plan International UK, said: “Girls across the UK are facing unacceptable stigma and shame linked to their periods, and this survey shows that, too often, this takes the form of verbal abuse and bullying.
“Not only is this damaging girls’ confidence and self-esteem, it’s also having an often-overlooked impact on their education.”
Society needs to end the stigma surrounding periods, she said, and the best way to do this is through education and open conversations that normalise them.
“We need to be teaching girls and boys about periods,” added Atlanta. “They need to know that they’re a normal thing and not something dirty or disgusting.”