What is sexual harassment?
Even if you've never been bullied or harassed, chances are you know someone who has. Harassment can be a big problem for kids and teens, especially when smartphones, online messaging, and social media sites make it easy for bullies to do their thing. When bullying behavior involves unwanted sexual comments, suggestions, advances, or threats to another person, it's called sexual harassment or sexual bullying.
Here's what you need to know and what you can do if you or someone you care about is being sexually harassed or bullied.
What Are Sexual Bullying and Harassment?
Just like other kinds of bullying, sexual harassment can involve comments, gestures, actions, or attention that is intended to hurt, offend, or intimidate another person. With sexual harassment, the focus is on things like a person's appearance, body parts, sexual orientation, or sexual activity. Sexual harassment may be verbal (like making comments about someone), but it doesn't have to be spoken. Bullies may use technology to harass someone sexually (like sending inappropriate text messages, pictures, or videos). Sometimes sexual harassment can even get physical when someone tries to kiss or touch someone that does not want to be touched.
Sexual harassment doesn't just happen to girls. Boys can harass girls, but girls also can harass guys, guys may harass other guys, and girls may harass other girls. Sexual harassment isn't limited to people of the same age, either. Adults sometimes sexually harass young people (and, occasionally, teens may harass adults, though that's pretty rare). But most of the time, when sexual harassment happens to teens, it's being done by people in the same age group.
Sexual harassment and bullying are very similar — they both involve unwelcome or unwanted sexual comments, attention, or physical contact. So why call one thing by two different names? Sometimes schools and other places use one term or the other for legal reasons. For instance, a school document may use the term "bullying" to describe what's against school policy, while a law might use the term "harassment" to define what's against the law. Some behaviors might be against school policy and also against the law.
For the person who is being targeted, though, it doesn't make much difference if something is called bullying or harassment. This kind of behaviour is upsetting no matter what it's called. Like anyone who's being bullied, people who are sexually harassed can feel threatened and scared and experience a great deal of emotional stress.
Sexual harassment or bullying can include:
-making sexual jokes, comments, or gestures to or about someone
-spreading sexual rumors (in person, by text, or online)
-writing sexual messages about people on bathroom stalls or in other public places
-showing someone inappropriate sexual pictures or videos
-asking someone to send you naked pictures of herself or himself ("nudes")
-posting sexual comments, pictures, or videos on social networks like Facebook, or sending explicit text messages
-making sexual comments or offers while pretending to be someone else online
-touching, grabbing, or pinching someone in a deliberately sexual way
-pulling at someone's clothing and brushing up against them in a purposefully sexual way
-asking someone to go out over and over again, even after the person has said no
Sending sexual messages or images by text, or "sexting," is not a good idea for many reasons. Sexting can lead to problems for you and the person getting the text, even when you are dating or in a relationship with that person. In some cases these messages can be considered harassment or bullying and can bring very serious consequences. Also, messages or images you intend to be private can get into the wrong hands and be used to embarrass, intimidate, or humiliate. Even if you send someone's picture just to one other person, it can be forwarded to many other people or posted online for the world to see.
“Forcing another person into doing things he or she doesn't want to do, such as kissing, oral sex, or intercourse, goes beyond sexual harassment or bullying. Forcing someone to do sexual things is sexual assault or rape, and it's a serious crime.”- Michelle J
I hope my article here helped to inform you of what exactly sexual harassment is. If you liked this article please feel free to have at some of my other articles found in the other sections of the website. –Nicole xxx
Teenagers With Experience is an online platform ran by teenagers for teenagers. We provide support through sharing our own experiences and providing advice based from this. If you need support, feel free to reach out to us on one of our social media platforms. We will do our best to support you and if we feel we cannot we will direct you to more suited, professional support.