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Teen Health

What Is Sexual Harassment?

How teens can recognize and deal with sexual harassment.
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Take Action to Protect Yourself

If you feel like you're being sexually harassed at school, here's the first step to making it stop: Call it sexual harassment, not bullying, Fineran says.

The government has clearly told schools that they are responsible for stopping sexual harassment at school, she says. You could file a federal lawsuit if a school doesn't do its job to protect you from sexual harassment. That's a very big deal. So your school may take your concern more seriously if you call it sexual harassment.

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.

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