teenage sexual harassment

Teenage Sexual Harrassment

Although sexual harassment is often thought of as crude remarks, catcalls, or suggestive whistles, it is actually much more.  Sexual harassment can be defined as any deliberate or repeated behaviour or action that is unwelcome, hostile, offensive, or degrading to the recipient.

These behaviours or actions have a sexual overtone and can be physical (e.g., grabbing, pinching, or forced kissing) or non-physical (e.g., spreading sexual rumours, flashing, or making sexual comments) in nature.  Sexual harassment also includes any kind of behaviour directed at – or that has an impact on – members of one sex (e.g., making fun of males who sign up for art class or discouraging females from taking advanced math classes).

Barriers for Teens

Many teens are reluctant to talk about or report sexual harassment.  In addition to feeling embarrassed, teens may not want to “tell on” peers, may feel responsible, or may feel unsafe sharing their concerns because of the way sexual harassment has typically been addressed in the school.  They may also fear further harassment for not being able to “take a joke” or “causing trouble.”

Teens who are sexually harassed at work may fear losing their job or having their hours shortened because they are not willing to accept harassment as part of their employment.  Additionally, they may not know who to tell, particularly if the person harassing them is the owner of the business.

Stopping Sexual Harassment

Stopping sexual harassment ultimately begins with defining it.  Teens that can identify behaviours and actions that are harassing and distinguish these from behaviours such as flirting, testing boundaries, or establishing dating relationships, may be more likely to choose not to participate in harassing activities.

Additionally, teens that are familiar with the various resources available – including school policies – will be better able to request assistance when needed.

For teens that are being sexually harassed, several steps can be taken to address the harassment.  The recipient may want to talk to or write a letter to the harasser stating what actions or behaviours were offensive. In that letter or conversation, he or she can ask for these to stop.  Encourage the teen to document the date, time, and description of each incident. This will strengthen their case if they file a complaint with school administrators or their their boss. Or if they take legal action to address the harassment. For teens, it is also good training for when they enter the work force later. Just in case they encounter similar situations at work. Records kept accurately will always prove to be vital if harassment leads to actual sexual assault and a legal case arises out of what has occurred.

Finally, support the teen in whatever way you can.  Remember, things may not improve immediately for them.

Retaliation from the harasser, school, employee, or peers is possible.  Help the teen identify other agencies and individuals who can help, such as their local domestic violence/sexual assault program.

For Teens and Young Adult Women:

Dating violence, like domestic violence, is a pattern of controlling, and abusive behaviours of one person over another. It occurs within a romantic relationship. It can include verbal, emotional, physical, sexual, and financial abuse. Dating violence can occur in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. It knows no boundaries and crosses all lines of race, socio-economic status, etc. Dating Violence CAN happen to ANYONE.

If you are a teen or young adult who has experienced dating or sexual abuse, get help. Seek the advice or counseling that Lifeline offers via a telephone counseling service on 1800 737 732.  

At Lifeline you can talk to someone who can advise you what can be done about the situation.  You may need help from the police and other such officers. Please do not hesitate to call if you feel you need help.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, you can ring the Domestic Violence Line for help on 1800 656 463