Teens and Sexual Harassment (page 3)

By — University of Florida IFAS Extension
Updated on Jul 26, 2007

Suggestions for Parents

  • Research school and workplace policies on sexual harassment and discuss these with your teen. Make the definition of sexual harassment clear to your teen. He or she may have unknowingly witnessed or experienced sexual harassment.


  • Don't be afraid to bring up the topic of sexual harassment in your teens life. Its okay if he or she isn't comfortable talking about their own experiences with you. Provide them with a mentor or knowledgeable peer that both you and your teen trust to talk with. Your teen may be willing to discuss such incidents happening in the lives of their friends and peers. This opens up conversation about preventative steps to take and how to handle it when it happens.


  • Take advantage of teachable moments in your adolescent's life, doing role plays and providing them with resistance skills (For example practice saying, "I am not going to tolerate being talked to or written to like that." "I don't think thats funny." Teach them how to get out of a bad interaction in a chat room or among peers).


  • Share the suggestions for teens with your teen, reinforcing that when they experience sexual harassment, it is not their fault and that something can be done about it.


Suggestions for Educators

  • Pay attention when an adolescent in your care appears distressed. If he or she is a victim of sexual harassment, follow-up on it by alerting supervising adults. Do not simply respond with a "boys will be boys (or girls will be girls)" attitude. Acknowledge the teens feelings about the reported incident(s) and make sure appropriate documentation is made.


  • Whether in the school, the workplace, or other community organizations, work to promote a culture that does not tolerate sexual harassment. It is not just about changing the perpetrator's behavior, but increasing awareness and bystander action to prevent sexual harassment. Make a policy statement on sexual harassment that is well-known to all youth and youth workers within the school or community-based organization.


  • Once you have developed a sexual harassment policy, create a simple complaint procedure with readily available documents for filing. Actively enforce this policy and be sure that investigations are exhaustive and brought to closure in a timely manner.


  • Be aware of likely places for patterns of sexual harassment to occur (for example, the school bus, a classroom, an overnight trip setting with low adult supervision) and work to prevent the risk of incidents in those settings.


  • Provide information on sexual harassment and conduct workshops on the topic for youth, youth workers, and educators to increase awareness and action.


  • Provide access to psychological services, such as support groups, counseling, or psychotherapy for teen victims and perpetrators of sexual harassment.



These tips can be helpful in opening up the lines of communication between youth, adults, and organizations in which they work together. It is important for youth to feel safe and protected from unhealthy interactions of a sexual nature and for adults to be informed about the experiences of youth and facilitate healthy youth decision-making. The most important role of parents and adults is to change the atmosphere of schools13 and communities in order to help youth protect their sexual integrity in a potentially socially toxic environment.


1. Garbarino, J. (2005, May) Growing up in a Socially Toxic Environment. Keynote speech Children Youth and Families At-Risk Annual Conference, May 25, 2005.

2. Hansen, G.L., & Mallory, W.W. (2005). Eliminate sexual harassment. University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. Accessed on July 22, 2005 from ""

3. Pellegrini, A.D. (2002). Bullying, victimization, and sexual harassment during the transition to middle school. Educational Psychologist, 37, 151-163.

4. Lee, V., Croninger, R., Linn, E., & Chen, X. (1996). The culture of sexual harassment in secondary schools. American Educational Research Journal, 33, 383-417.

5. Fineran, S. (2002). Adolescents at work: Gender issues and sexual harassment. Violence Against Women, 8, 953-967.

6. McMaster, L., Connolly, J., Pepler, D., & Craig, W. (2002). Peer to peer sexual harassment in early adolescence: A developmental perspective. Development & Psychopathology, 14, 91-105.

7. Dewey, L. (2002). Girls online: Feeling out of bounds. Camping Magazine, September/October, 48-50.

8. Arnett, J.J. (2004). Adolescence and emerging adulthood: A cultural approach. (2nd Edition) Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

9. Steinberg, L. (2002). Adolescence. (6th Edition) New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

10. Ybarra, M.L., Leaf, P., & Diener-West, M. (2004). Sex differences in youth-reported depressive symptomatology and unwanted internet sexual solicitation. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 6.

11. Fineran, S. & Bennett, L. (1998). Teenage peer sexual harassment: Implications for social work practice in education. Social Work, 43, 55-64.

12. Linn, E., & Fua, R.B. (1999). The role of school mental health professionals in resolving school-related sexual harassment complaints. Social Work in Education, 21, 1-5.

13. Stein, N. (1995). Sexual harassment in school: The public performance of gendered violence. Harvard Educational Review, 65, 145-162.


For Teens

1. Teen Advice: Provides advice, scenarios and definitions from "Teen Advice" column online

2. Hansen, G.L., & Mallory, W.W. (2005). Eliminate sexual harassment. University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. Accessed on July 22, 2005

3. New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault: Facts for teens on sexual harassment

4. Girls Inc.: A list of books and resources for teen girls to read about sexual harassment


For Parents

1. Teen Advice: Lists a number of online articles about sexual harassment--advisable for teens and parents to view together

2. American Association of University Women: A resource for parents and educators

3. Palo Alto Medical Foundation: A resource defining sexual harassment and school policy--a resource for both parents and youth

For Youth Workers/Administrators/Educators

1. Public television for Western New England: Sexual harassment in schools information and lessons on for educators


2. Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium: A bibliography on preventing sexual harassment among students and educators in the public school system


3. Discovery A workshop available for educators to use (must be purchased) to teach 9th-12th grade teens about sexual harassment and how to deal with it

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