Yourteen is out in the real world, hanging out with friends in publicplaces without your protection and supervision, starting to date, andmaybe even working for the first time. School officials and employersare legally required to provide children with safe surroundings thatare free from harassment and discrimination, but its important thatyour child knows how to recognize and protect himself from sexualharassment and abuse. As a parent, it is important for you to talk toyour teen about appropriate behaviors, make sure he knows his rights,and teach him what to do in a dangerous situation.
Help your teen stay safe
Define sexual harassment.Sexual harassment is unwanted and unwelcome sexual behavior. It issometimes not obvious, and can be physical or verbal. If somethingmakes your child uncomfortable, it is not right. Even if she thinks sheis overreacting, she should let you or a trusted adult know. Theharasser can be male or female, and an adult or a teenager, and theperson being harassed can also be male or female. It can easily besomeone your teen is close to, including someone shes in arelationship with.
Recognize sexual harassment. Flirtingamong peers can be normal and healthy, and is even common among teens.But sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference between flirtingand harassment. If your teen is uncomfortable and doesnt want it tocontinue, then it is harassment. Remind your teen that when an adultflirts with teens it is never ok. Some behaviors that are sexualharassment include:
Blocking someones way or pushing them at someone else
Brushing up against someones body
Pulling at someones clothes
Comments, whistles, or other noises that are sexual
Spreading sexual rumors, writing sexual things, telling dirty jokes, or drawing sexual pictures
Hugging someone who doesnt want it
Signs to look for in your teen.Experiencing harassment can cause teens to feel uncomfortable,embarrassed, or threatened. The stress can lead to depression,headaches, problems sleeping and eating, and avoiding going out, evento school.
How you can prevent sexual harassment.The most important thing you can do is to talk about sexual harassmentwith your teen. Know where she is going and who she will be with. Ifshe is going on a date with someone for the first time, encourage herto go on a group date. Make sure she has a way to contact you and helpher come up with a plan for what to do in a situation where someonemakes her uncomfortable.
How you can address sexual harassment.Encourage your teen to let the harasser know he doesnt like theirbehavior the first time it happens if he can. If your teen confides inyou, even if you are not sure it is sexual harassment, talk to someoneyou trust who you can help you figure out what steps to take. This canbe a police officer, school official, religious leader, or doctor. Findout who is responsible for dealing with complaints about sexualharassment wherever it took place. Remind your teen that it is not hisfault. Encourage him to write down when the incidents happened.
Teens can help prevent sexual harassment. Ifyour teen sees harassment happening to someone else, encourage her tonot just stand by and watch. She can refuse to join in, and if shefeels safe, she can even step in and interrupt or tell a trusted adult.Your teen can support a friend who is being harassed by listening,believing, and offering to go with the friend to tell someone.
Thisinformation was compiled by Sunindia Bhalla, One Tough Job Manager, andreviewed by the Program Staff of the Massachusetts Childrens TrustFund.
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