Sexual harassment is any unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature. It can make someone feel upset, scared, embarrassed, and violated. It includes things like (but not limited to):
- Unwanted touching
- Cat calling
- Staring or suggestive looks
- Sexual ‘jokes’
- Asking for sexual favours
- Sending unwanted sexual images like ‘nudes’
- Intrusive questions about someone’s sex life
- Indecent exposure
Some forms of sexual harassment can break criminal law in England and Wales. These include:
- indecent exposure
- any sexual harassment involving physical contact (this amounts to sexual assault in English and Welsh law)
Although sexual harassment can sometimes feel like it’s normalised, it is never okay and should not be accepted as something that ‘just happens’. It is not a compliment, never ‘just a joke’ or ‘banter’ and should be taken very seriously. These behaviours can create an environment that can lead to sexual violence like sexual assault and rape.
It is the person receiving the sexual behaviour who decides if it is unwanted, not the person who is doing the behaviour. It does not matter if someone has consented to something once before, consent must be received for anything of a sexual nature every time it happens.
Sexual harassment can happen to anyone of any age, gender, race, or religion.
In a study carried out by Ofsted about girls’ experience of sexual harassment and abuse, they found out that:
Sexual harassment is never the fault of the person that it is happening to.
YOUNG PEOPLE TAKING A STAND
Although sexual harassment is a scary and uncomfortable experience, there are loads of young people who are saying ‘Enough!’. You can find some of the movements and campaigns here:
Our Streets Now is a national campaign demanding an end to public sexual harassment. Started by two sisters, 15 and 21, who spoke about how their lives were restricted by the fear of harassment.
Everyone’s Invited is a safe place for survivors to share their stories completely anonymously. Their Instagram page and website also has a lot of information on current events and how to get involved or get help.
The Consent Coalition is made up of local services in Nottinghamshire and their website has lots of information and advice on sex and consent.
HELP AFTER SEXUAL ASSAULT
If you have been sexually assaulted, there are services that can help. Sexual assault referral centres (SARCs) offer medical, practical and emotional support. They have specially trained doctors, nurses and support workers to care for you.
FIND THE RIGHT HELP FOR YOU
There are many different services and helplines operating nationwide and locally for any issue you might be facing.
We’re here to help.