Healthy lives for young people
Abuse

What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment can happen to anyone, regardless of gender or sexuality; and could be from someone of the same or different sex. However it happens, it is never your fault and there are lots of ways to get support.

This unwanted sexual behaviour can happen anywhere such as at school, on the bus or at work and can be a ‘one-off’ or repeated behaviour. Sexual harassment can appear in many different forms, these commonly include:

  • someone making sexual comments, jokes or gestures
  • spreading sexual rumours about you
  • staring or leering at your body
  • calling you names such as slut and whore
  • inappropriate touching without your consent
  • showing sexual photos or videos at school or work
  • sending you unwanted sexual texts, messages or pictures
  • offering rewards in return for sexual favours

In a report on street harassment (2018) Plan UK reported that 66% of girls in the UK have experienced sexual attention or sexual or physical contact in a public place.

Experiencing sexual harassment can be very upsetting. It can often cause a lot of distress and can lead to headaches, anxiety, depression, problems sleeping and eating, and loss of self-confidence.

Dealing with sexual harassment

If you have been sexually harassed, it is not your fault and no one should have to put up with it. We have listed a few steps below which could help you to try and put a stop to it:

Ask them to stop

If you feel comfortable doing so, tell the person that you don’t like what they are doing and you want it to stop. If you don’t feel safe confronting them, speak to someone else who can help like a trusted adult or friend.

Make a note of what happens

It is a good idea to make note of when and where the sexual harassment happens, and if possible get details of any witnesses. If you are receiving unwanted letters, emails, texts, messages or pictures, keep a record of them.

Speak to someone

If you’re experiencing harassment it’s a really good idea to speak to someone who you trust, like a family member, carer, or teacher. They will be able to help you with next steps, or assist you in finding additional support if you need.

Sometimes it can feel embarrassing or difficult telling a person that you’re being harassed but it’s important to remember that it is never your fault and your feelings are valid. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking to someone you know or would rather tell someone over the phone, there are a number of organisations that you can call.

If you’re not sure whether what you’re experiencing is harassment, speaking to someone else about it can help put things into perspective and help you to understand what you’re going through.

Report it

It is always your decision whether to report harassment. If you report to your school, college or work, they will have to follow up and investigate your report.

If you are being sexually harassed at work or by your landlord you are protected by the Equality Act 2010 which categorises sexual harassment under unlawful discrimination. This also includes if you are being treated badly due to your reaction to the harassment. Follow the links below for further help and support:

If you are in immediate danger, you should call the police on 999.

Support others

If you’ve noticed it’s happening to another person as well, you can try and support each other in reporting it.

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