How to Deal with Sexual Harassment

Instructor: Gaines Arnold
This lesson discusses sexual harassment and how it affects teens and preteens. The definition of sexual harassment is given and then different scenarios are discussed to demonstrate what it is. The difference between sexual harassment and sexual assault or rape is also discussed.

What do Teens Need to Know about Sexual Harassment?

The topic of sexual harassment in the workplace has received a lot of attention, as it should, but how teens are affected in school, in relationships, and in their occupations has gotten little notice. Adults understand (or at least they should) after years of mandated sexual harassment training what it is and how it upsets individuals and places of business. But teens get very little training on the topic.

To begin, sexual harassment is any unwanted touching of a sexual nature, verbal advances, or joking that can be considered sexually inappropriate. Due to the developmental stage of teens and the increase in certain hormones, teens and preteens live in a sexually charged environment. However, this does not mean that anyone, male or female, should be made to feel uncomfortable or unsafe because of their environment.

It should also be noted that sexual harassment is different than sexual assault or rape. These are trying to force, or actually forcing, a person into a sexual act that is not consensual. These are very serious crimes and need to be reported to the authorities as soon as possible. If you are the victim of sexual assault or rape it is imperative that you go to the hospital and speak to the police about the incident.

To fully understand what sexual harassment is, it is best to look at some scenarios which demonstrate the behavior and how the victim can safely respond.

Sexual Harassment Scenarios

Jean, a sophomore, sat in front of a senior boy in math class. He was always kicking her seat and would lean forward and to look over her shoulder to get answers on quizzes and tests. Then he started touching her hair and asking her on dates. He started following her in the hall and one time cornered her at her locker. Jean was passive and even though she told him to stop, he just laughed at her. She should have told a teacher, her parents, or the principal about it and firmly told the senior boy that she wanted him to stop. She could also keep a record of what was happening so that she could show times, dates, and descriptions of the harassment.

One day when Wes went to the bathroom, he was followed by two other young men in his class. After using the restroom, he was confronted by the two boys. One tried to kiss him while the other stood back and laughed. Wes knew about sexual harassment, but he never thought it happened to boys. People should realize that sexual harassment occurs to both genders and it is not appropriate regardless of who the person is. Wes needed to get out of the space and talk to someone about it.

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