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What Is Sexual Harassment?

How teens can recognize and deal with sexual harassment.

Take Action to Protect Yourself continued...

And remember, the law protects you so that no one can retaliate or take revenge for you reporting him or her.

You can take these other steps to confront sexual harassment at school, Fineran says:

  • Speak up. Tell your harasser to stop. Say that the words or actions are making you uncomfortable.
  • Keep a record. Take note of who harassed you, what the person said or did, and how you responded. Write down when and where it happened. Keep any harassing emails, texts, or online postings, too.
  • Tell a parent or trusted adult. Sometimes it's hard to know whether events cross the line from teasing to sexual harassment. Talking to an adult can help you figure out what's happening and how to deal with it. If a boss starts scheduling you for early in the morning or late at night so the two of you are working alone, an adult in your life should know.
  • Report it. Tell a teacher, staff member, or your school principal. Share your records of what has happened. If the people at your school aren't helpful, then tell the school's superintendent. Your parents can help with this.
  • Go legal. If you don't get relief, consider whether a lawsuit is necessary. Again, your parents should be involved in this.
  • Tell your boss. If your boss is the problem, then tell his or her boss. Businesses can be sued for sexual harassment, too, and many will take action if they're concerned about a lawsuit. If you are afraid to do this alone, get your parents or another trusted adult involved.
  • Consider quitting if you feel unsafe.

How You Can Avoid Being the Harasser

If you're checking someone out, joking with your friends, or being persistent in asking for a date, is that harassment? It may sometimes seem tricky to tell. Here are some pointers:

  • Remember where you are. Jokes or comments that you could make with your close buddies may not be OK with someone you don't know as well, Holt says.
  • Don't label people. Never call anyone a "slut," and never use "gay" as an insult.
  • Hands off. Don't touch people -- especially in a personal or sexual manner -- unless they have told you it's OK to do so.
  • Be respectful. If someone asks you to stop doing something that's bothering them, stop immediately. It doesn't matter if it's someone you're dating or someone you don't know -- if they say "stop," stop.
  • Don't spread rumors. Respectfulness also means not spreading rumors. Don't share personal details or sexy photos that would embarrass someone.
  • Watch for signals. If someone seems uncomfortable or afraid when you're trying to start a conversation or ask for a date, stop.


Reviewed on December 04, 2011

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