How Might My Teen Be Sexually Harassed at School?

Preparing Your Teen for the Possibility of Sexual Harassment

Teenage boys intimidating a teenage girl

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What are some examples of sexual harassment that happens to teens at school?

We are all sexual beings, from the cradle to the grave. Even as infants and toddlers, it can help to learn some sexuality basics, such as the proper names for one's body parts. As our children develop sexually, they become even more curious about their bodies, about gender, and about sex. In late elementary school, this sexual awakening manifests in some unpleasant ways. Boys especially begin to talk more frequently about girls' bodies, making demeaning comments and unwanted advances.

This is an unfortunate but natural part of children's development, and is born out of their thirst for more information. As a parent, you can head some of this negative behavior off at the pass by giving your child an age-appropriate, at-home education in sexuality, privacy, and personal boundaries. You can prepare your child for some of the less pleasant things he or she might encounter while at school. Here are just a few examples of sexual harassment that can be found in elementary, middle, and high school hallways:

  • unwanted, unwelcome physical contact, such as touching, bumping, grabbing, or patting
  • sexually insulting remarks about race, gender, ability, or class
  • bragging about sexual prowess for others to hear
  • intimidating hallway behavior, which can include demeaning nicknames, homophobic name calling, cat calls, rating, or embarrassing whistles
  • graffiti with names written on walls or desks; a common example is: "for a good time, call...”
  • being followed around by another student / being stalked

At some point, this behavior moves beyond natural child curiosity and moves into ever more problematic bullying behavior. Why do teens bully others sexually? There are many reasons. It may make them feel powerful. They may do it because they want to appear sexually mature. They may find gossip-mongering exciting. They may be looking to reduce their own feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem.

In 2010-2011,13% of students in grades 7-12 reported experiencing unwanted sexual contact, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

You can help your own teen deal with sexual bullying by helping to instill them with a sense of confidence in the face of their tormentors. Teach them to make eye contact, and to be assertive. Help them to build self-esteem. Encourage them to nurture healthier friendships.

Remember, also, that if your child is being bullied, they're most likely hurting. Be your teen's support system. Assure them that it's not their fault that they've become the target of bullying. Work with them to decide how bullying should be handled.

And more than anything else, be there for them.

2 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Shetgiri R. Bullying and Victimization Among ChildrenAdv Pediatr. 2013;60(1):33-51. doi:10.1016/j.yapd.2013.04.004

  2. American Civil Liberties Union. Survey Shows Sexual Harassment in School is All too Common.

By Denise Witmer
Denise Witmer is a freelance writer and mother of three children, who has authored several books and countless articles on parenting teens since 1997.