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What is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment is any unwelcome, unwanted pressure, verbal, visual or physical contact of a sexual nature. It is a power play and may include:
• putting a hand on someone’s shoulder
• repeatedly propositioning someone when they have said no
• questioning or commenting about a person’s sexuality
• spreading sexual rumors
• telling sexually offensive jokes
• displaying pictures or magazines that are sexually explicit
• making comments about someone’s clothing or body
• making suggestive gestures
• standing or rubbing against a person
• pressuring someone for a date
Sexual harassment hurts everyone. The receiver may experience fear, humiliation, anxiety, inability to trust people, a hard time concentrating, difficulty attending school, social problems, abuse of drugs and alcohol, anger, depression, sleeplessness, withdrawal from others, embarrassment, nervousness, or a change in dress or behavior.
The harasser may experience disciplinary action (including detention, suspension, or expulsion), legal consequences, embarrassment, blame, or isolation from friends.
The entire school may experience an atmosphere of secrecy, fear, and rumors, problems in protecting students from harassment and retaliation, students taking sides “for” and “against,” and/or a drop in students’ performances.
If it’s so bad, why doesn’t the person being harassed talk about it or the person doing the harassing just stop?
The person being harassed may fear retaliation, feel like it’s their fault, feel like nothing can be done to stop the harassment, hope the harassment will go away by ignoring it, or think if they change their behavior the harassment will stop by itself.
The harasser may really like the person, think the person likes the attention, just be following the crowd and not thinking about what they are doing, not see anything wrong with their behavior, or know his/her actions are unwanted and not care about the person’s feelings.
Help is Available
If you or someone you know has been sexually harassed, or if you would like more information, talk to your school administrators or contact the domestic violence/sexual assault crisis center nearest you.