Facts about Sexual Harassment

  • Both girls and boys experience sexual harassment

    A study by the American Association of University Women indicates that 85 percent of girls and 76 percent of boys in grades 8–11 have experienced some form of sexual harassment. In fact, 65 percent of girls and 42 percent of boys have actually been touched, grabbed, or pinched in a sexual way in school (AAUW 1993)

    The perpetrator is not always an adult

    As many of 40 percent of children who are sexually abused are taken advantage of by older or more powerful children. 23 percent of children and teens 10 to 17 say they’ve been shown unwanted pornography, which is a form of sexual assault. – “Trends in Youth Victimization”, Jones L, Mitchell K, Finkelhor D, 2012

    Academic problems are a big red flag

    Not only do grades suffer after a sexual assault, a history of sexual abuse makes a person more likely to drop out of school. – Darkness to Light, 2017

    Types of sexual assault

    In very broad terms, sexual assault is an unwanted sexual advance. It ranges from harassment in the form of a comment or joke, an unwanted physical touch, a sexually explicit photograph or other material shared without consent, to something more violent like rape. These are just a few examples of sexual violence. Here are the legal definitions of harassment, sexual assault and sexual misconduct, as well as a few examples.

    Legal Definitions

    • Unwelcome Behavior: Any behavior that is deemed offensive or unwelcome, and is detrimental to the physical, emotional and psychological health of the recipient or witnesses.
    • Sexual Harassment: Unwelcome sexual behavior or requests for sexual favors that make a person feel uncomfortable. Sexual harassment can be verbal, physical or visual.
    • Sexual Misconduct: Any unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature that is committed without consent. Overriding consent might be accomplished through manipulation, intimidation, coercion or physical force.
    • Sexual Assault: Sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the consent of the victim. This can include fondling, touching, penetration, or forcing the victim to perform sexual acts.
    • Rape: A form of sexual assault that includes penetration without consent. The FBI defines rape specifically as “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”
    • Date-Rape: Forcible sexual assault during a voluntary social engagement, where the victim did not intend to engage in specific sexual activity and verbally and/or physically resisted. Even if both parties knew each other or the victim willingly accompanied the perpetrator on a date, these are not legal defenses.
    • Intimate Partner Violence: Not always sexual in nature, the Center for Disease Control defines intimate partner violence as “physical violence, sexual violence, stalking and psychological aggression (including coercive acts) by a current or former intimate partner”.
    • Sexual Abuse: Any type of sexual activity or sexual contact with a minor.
    • Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault: When alcohol and drugs are used to compromise a person’s ability to consent to the sexual activity or behavior.

    The Spectrum Of Unwanted Sexual Behaviors

    Physical Behavior

    A physical act that some might find inappropriate or unwelcome, but others might not feel is wrong. NOTE: This is still legally considered harassment.

    • Example 1: Snapping a bra in an effort to “tease” or “flirt” or “intimidate”.
    • Example 2: Massaging someone’s shoulders, hugging or putting an arm around someone without their consent.
    • Example 3: Puckering lips, blowing kisses or making flirty or suggestive gestures at someone you think is attractive.
    • Example 4: Slapping someone on the butt to congratulate them after scoring a point in a game.

    Sexual Harassment

    A sexual advance or other behavior that makes a person uncomfortable.

    • Example 1: A teacher mentioning they’d date a student if they were younger or the student’s age.
    • Example 2: Asking someone a question about their sex life, gender identity or sexual orientation without their openly offering to answer.
    • Example 3: Telling sexual jokes or sending sexually-charged messages to someone who has not explicitly asked to participate.
    • Example 4: Rating fellow students on their appearance, sexual prowess or the like.

    Sexual Misconduct

    Inappropriate conduct without consent, or using inappropriate or devious methods of getting “consent”.

    • Example 1: A teacher or other person of influence developing a sexual relationship or exchanging sexual messages with a student.
    • Example 2: Threatening a partner or acquaintance with embarrassment or other harm if they do not engage in a sexual act or relationship.
    • Example 3: Insisting that a person perform a sexual act that they aren’t ready for or are unsure about.
    • Example 4: Manipulating someone’s emotions or mental state, or making untrue statements or promises to try to get consent. (i.e. saying “I love you” to have sex)

    Sexual Assault

    Sexual conduct or behavior performed without explicit, enthusiastic consent.

    • Example 1: Having sex with someone who isn’t legally old enough to consent, even if they seemed enthusiastic about it.
    • Example 2: Making someone feel guilty or tricking someone into having sex.
    • Example 3: “Flashing” or exposing genitals to someone who has not enthusiastically agreed to view them (yes, this includes unsolicited pictures of genitalia sent electronically).
    • Example 4: Demanding a person stay in the room or watch while a sexual act is performed with others, either in person or in pictures / video.


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