Some students face sexual harassment. Being called names, being grabbed, being whistled at or stared at is no fun. When does the fun stop and hurt begin? That's something for you to decide. If it hurts, it's harassment. If you don't like it and want it to stop you don't have to take it.
What is sexual harassment?
Any unwelcome and unwanted sexual behavior that interferes with your privacy or makes you feel uncomfortable is sexual harassment. If a person keeps doing the same thing even after you've told them to stop, or if the behavior makes you want to cut classes, skip school or stay away from other places where you work or hang out, it's harassment.
Sexually harassing behaviors include:
- Sexual comments, gestures, looks, or whistles
- Name calling
- Spreading sexual rumors about a person
- Touching, grabbing, or reaching for a person's private parts
- Telling someone they're not good enough "because they're a girl" or "because they're a boy"
- Pulling someone's clothes up, down or off
-Dragging a girl into the boys' bathroom; dragging a boy into the girls' bathroom
- Writing sexual graffiti about a person
When someone is harassed they can have lots of different feelings. Someone might feel: Mixed up, confused, sad, mad, embarrassed, scared, and bad about themselves. Sexual harassment is not a joke. It's not OK and it's got to stop.
What can I do if I'm being sexually harassed?
1) Tell the harasser to stop, if you can.
2) Talk to someone you trust about what's going on. Tell a friend, a counselor, a teacher, a coach, a parent, or another adult about the harassment. Get that person to help you tell the harasser to stop.
3) Write a letter to the person who is harassing you. Say how the behavior makes you feel and tell them to stop
4) Check out your school's policy on sexual harassment. Use your school's rules about sexual harassment to back you up.
5) Call your local sexual assault center for support (360-357-4472).
6) Don't give up until someone helps you stop the harassment.
How can I help a friend who is being harassed?
1) Believe your friend
2) Take your friend's concerns seriously
3) Tell your friend that he or she isn't doing anything to cause the harassment
4) Help your friend find an adult who will help stop the harassment
5) Help your friend tell the harasser to stop
6) Stick up for your friend by standing up to the harasser yourself
Why do students harass other students?
Most students who harass others do so unintentionally. They are often acting out what they see going on around them. Their actions are seen as normal, accepted behavior. They don't realize the impact of their behavior. They think they are just having fun.
Some students harass others intentionally because of their own power and control issues. In either case the harassing behavior is unacceptable and needs to be stopped.
How can I talk to my child about sexual harassment?
Because sexual harassment is difficult for students to talk about, it is especially important for adults to address the subject. Here are some ways to start:
- Clarify your own thoughts on the subject. Identify what kinds of behavior are considered to be sexual harassment and why.
- Take advantage of a teachable moment. Use a newspaper article or story to start a more general conversation on the subject of sexual harassment.
- Find out what your child may already know about sexual harassment. Ask what she or he has learned in school about sexual harassment.
- Invite your child to ask you questions. Don't expect to be an expert. Be prepared to look for more information and support for yourself and your child.
Recognize that this discussion can be difficult for yourself too. Give yourself credit for every effort you make.
What if my child is being sexually harassed?
If your child tells you about behavior she or he is facing that sounds like sexual harassment:
1) Listen carefully to your child's concerns. Take your child's complaint seriously. Don't minimize the problem.
2) Tell your child that the behavior he or she is experiencing is not OK. Reassure your child that he or she is not to blame for the harassment.
3) Assure your child you will do all you can to help. Ask your child what he or she wants to have happen.
4) Contact an adult at school (or a supervisor at a job) and ask for their intervention.
5) Follow up to find out how the problem is being handled.
* Information on this page taken from "Drawing the Line on Sexual Harassment - A Guide for Parents and Students" published by Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs 1998 www.wcsap.org