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What Is Sexual Harassment?
What Is Sexual Harassment?
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What Is Sexual Harassment?

Youth

Sexual harassment is a type of bullying intended to hurt or intimidate someone. It can include verbal harassment, such as sexual jokes or sexual comments, as well as physical harassment in the form of sexual gestures, touching in a sexual way or sexual actions toward or about another person. Sexual harassment can also include asking someone to share sexual pictures, sending someone unwanted sexual pictures or starting sexual rumors about someone (in person, via text, online or in writing in a public place, like a bathroom stall).

Sexual harassment is never okay, and it’s important to understand what sexual harassment is so your behavior does not hurt others. It is also important to remember that there are consequences for participating in this type of behavior.

If someone is sexually harassed, it is never that person’s fault. No one has the right to bully or harass another person. If someone is being sexually harassed, they can tell the person harassing them to stop. If this does not stop the behavior, tell a trusted adult—like a parent, relative, teacher or coach—and keep telling adults until the harassment stops. If the harassment happens at school, speak with a guidance counselor, nurse or administrator to get help and find out if your school has a policy on bullying and harassment.

FAQs

Someone showed me pornographic material, and it made me uncomfortable. I don’t know what to do about it.

It’s not right that this happened to you, and it is not your fault. No one should show a young person pornographic videos or pictures. It can make a person feel uncomfortable and is against the law. Don’t keep this a secret. Find someone you trust, like a parent, family member, teacher, coach, a friend’s parent or neighbor, and tell them what happened. There are people out there who can help. By law, most adult professionals (like teachers, coaches and doctors) are required to report this information to the police, so they can help to protect you. You may be worried about getting the person who showed you pornography in trouble, but remember that you have done nothing wrong and deserve to be safe. The best way to prevent this from happening again to you or to someone else is to talk to a trusted adult. You could talk face to face or on the phone. You could also send a text, email or letter. You could even make a drawing, if that’s easier. The important thing is to tell someone. If the first adult you tell doesn’t believe you or doesn’t do anything to help protect you, keep telling other trusted adults until you get help.

Someone touched me in a sexual way and I don’t know what to do about it.

It’s not right that this happened to you, and it is not your fault. No one should touch you in a sexual way. This includes family members, other adults and other kids. Don’t keep this a secret. Find someone you trust, like a parent, family member, teacher, coach, a friend’s parent or neighbor, and tell them what happened. There are people out there who can help. You may be worried about getting the person who touched you in trouble, but remember that you have done nothing wrong and deserve to be safe. The best way to prevent this from happening again to you or to someone else is to talk to a trusted adult. You could talk face to face or on the phone. You could also send a text, email or letter. You could even make a drawing, if that’s easier. The important thing is to tell someone. If the first adult you tell doesn’t believe you or doesn’t do anything to help protect you, keep telling other trusted adults until you get help.

Parents

As young people’s bodies start to mature, they may experience sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is a form of bullying that is meant to hurt or intimidate a person, and it can take many shapes. It can include sexual jokes, sexual comments, sexual gestures, touching in a sexual way or sexual actions toward or about another person. Sexual harassment can also include asking someone to share sexual pictures, sending someone unwanted sexual pictures, exposing someone to pornography or starting sexual rumors about someone (in person, via text, online or in writing in a public place, like a bathroom stall). It is important that parents tell their children (regardless of their gender) that some people use sexual language, touching or gestures to hurt other people, and this is never okay. Having these conversations with young people gives you an opportunity to explain that it is not okay for anyone to verbally or physically harass another person, including touching another person who doesn’t want to be touched, making sexual comments about another person, asking someone to send sexual photos or starting sexual rumors about another person. Make sure your children know that if anyone does sexually harass them by touching, gesturing or showing them sexual images that make them uncomfortable, they should tell you right away.

 

Sexual harassment is something no one wants their child to face, but we know that it is a reality. Young people need to know how to respect other people’s boundaries, that it is never okay to sexually harass someone else and that there are consequences to participating in this type of behavior. Young people should also know what to do if they are being sexually harassed. It is important that young people know they are never at fault when they are sexually harassed and that they should report harassment to a trusted adult, such as a parent, teacher or coach, as soon as possible.

 

CONVERSATION STARTERS

 

Start essential conversations with your children about boundaries, how others should and should not touch them and how they should or should not touch others. These conversations lay the foundation so your children know they can come to you with questions or if someone crosses a boundary with them. The easiest way to start these conversations is to talk about issues as they come up in everyday life, like while watching TV together.

Bring up the topic of sexual assault while watching or listening to the news

When a news stories about sexual harassment comes on, ask your child if they have heard about this topic before and how it made them feel. You can then reinforce with your child that no one should touch them or speak to them in a way that makes them uncomfortable and they should not touch other people in a way that would make them uncomfortable. Remind your child that they can come to you if they have questions about this or if something happens that makes them feel uncomfortable.

Bring up the topic of sexual assault while watching shows or movies

If you are watching a show or movie that portrays sexual harassment or unwanted touching, you can use this as an opportunity to ask your child if they think this is sexual harassment. You could also ask what someone should do if they think they have been sexually harassed. Remind your child that they can come to you if they have questions about this or if something happens that makes them feel uncomfortable.

Educators

As young people’s bodies start to mature, they may experience sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is a form of bullying that is meant to hurt or intimidate a person, and it can take many shapes. It can include sexual jokes, sexual comments, sexual gestures, touching in a sexual way or sexual actions toward or about another person. Sexual harassment can also include asking someone to share sexual pictures, sending someone unwanted sexual pictures, exposing someone to pornography or starting sexual rumors about someone (in person, via text, online or in writing in a public place, like a bathroom stall).

 

It is important that educators be aware of their school or districts bullying and/or sexual harassment policy. If a school or district has such a policy, educators and administrators can ensure there are procedures in place to make students aware of this policy. It is important that students understand that it is not okay for anyone to verbally or physically harass another person, including sexually touching another person who doesn’t want to be touched, making sexual comments about another person, asking someone to send sexual photos or starting sexual rumors about another person. Students should also know what the consequences are for participating in this type of behavior.

 

Sexual harassment is something students should never face, but we know that it is a reality. It is important that young people know they are never at fault if they are sexually harassed. Students should know the procedure for reporting sexual harassment or at the very least who they should speak to if they are sexually harassed at school.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

After watching the video with your class, process it using the following discussion questions:
  • What are some examples of sexual harassment that were mentioned in the video?
  • Why is it important to understand what sexual harassment is?
  • Why is it important to never sexually harass someone?
  • If someone has been sexually harassed, who are some of the people they could talk to?
  • If someone has been sexually harassed, what are some resources you could direct them to?