Sexual bullying can take many forms, but any incident has the potential to harm vulnerable young women. It’s important for parents to understand this phenomenon and recognize potential warning signs. Read on to learn more about this troubling trend.
What Is Sexual Bullying?
This term is used to describe any incident of harassment that is sexual in nature. Although many such events take place in person, a lot of girls today are sexually harassed online, through social media, text or chat. This abuse can be verbal, physical or both and is alarmingly pervasive today.
Research shows that 83 percent of girls ages 12 to 18 report having been sexually harassed, starting as early as elementary school. Almost half of those surveyed indicate that the harassment involved groping or other unwelcome touching. The majority of incidents happen in school, both in the classroom and in the hallways, in close proximity to teachers and school administrators.
The most common forms of sexual bullying involve making crude or inappropriate comments of a sexual nature, calling someone explicit or derogatory names, or spreading rumors about sexual behavior.
Another common form of harassment involves sending explicit photographs or messages via text, email, chat or social media, publically posting explicit images of the victim or forwarding them to others.
In extreme cases, assault or rape may occur. This behavior can be perpetrated by peers, other age groups or adults of either gender.
Signs Your Daughter Is a Victim of Sexual Bullying
The signs that a girl or young woman has been victimized can be extremely subtle. Nevertheless, the effects can be profound and life-changing. Girls report becoming self-conscious and embarrassed and going out of their way to avoid their harassers.
Victims may feel powerless and afraid, ashamed and even guilty, believing they deserved the abuse. In school, girls may stop speaking up in class and grades begin to fall.
Depression, anxiety and other emotional disturbances are commonly seen in harassed teens. Girls may turn to substance abuse or develop eating disorders. In extreme cases, teens may engage in self-harm or even attempt suicide.
Talking to Your Teen about Harassment
In many cases, you daughter may be too embarrassed or uncomfortable to bring up incidents of sexual bullying. Because this practice has become so pervasive in our culture, she may not be consciously aware that she is a victim.
Talk with young women about this phenomenon and be clear in its description. Make clear that any type of abuse or victimization is not their fault, and stress the importance of telling someone if it happens to them or if they see another girl being victimized.
Parents hope their kids will always turn to them for help, but open the door for them to confide in other trusted adults if necessary. Remind your daughter that she can confide in a school counselor, spiritual or church leader or her physician. Provide her with online resources as well, where she can read more about the subject and find additional help if necessary.
If you believe that your daughter or another young woman in your care is being sexually harassed or bullied, it’s critical to seek professional assistance and intervention.
Havenwood Academy offers residential treatment programs designed to help girls ages 12 to 17 who have been sexually abused or victimized in some way. We urge parents and caregivers to contact us for more information if your child has been the victim of sexual bullying.