According to Stop Street Harassment, by the time most girls are in their teens, 99% have experienced some form of sexual harassment in public. Most women, especially girls, especially adolescents, are the subject of sexual harassment. Sexual molesters’ goals are often targeted at women in puberty. To prevent this, parents should be the ones laying the groundwork to help their daughters protect themselves and equip themselves with coping strategies when it comes to sexual harassment.
What is teen sexual harassment?
Teen sexual harassment is verbal and non-verbal, sexual behavior affecting the dignity of teenagers. Sexual harassment is undesirable, inappropriate, and unacceptable behavior towards a person being harassed.
For children and teens (under 18 years old), even with consensual sex, it is still considered sexual harassment.
Forms of teen sexual harassment
There are 3 types of sexual harassment.
First, verbal sexual harassment such as making sexual comments or implications that are not socially appropriate nor desirable. Making comments about someone else’s clothing or body (body-shaming) is also considered verbal sexual harassment. Those are also continuous personal outings.
Second, non-verbal sexual harassment. This behavior includes undesirable actions such as provocative body language, indecent expression, erotic gaze, constant blinking, finger gestures, etc. This form also includes displaying pornographic materials, pictures, objects, computer screens, and messages.
Third, physical sexual harassment such as intentionally touching others from caressing, cuddling or kissing to sexual assault, rape.
8 steps to protect your child from teen sexual harassment
Be aware of the current situation
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The first step in helping your child deal with teen sexual harassment is to take the problem seriously. According to Dr. David Anderson, when their children, especially girls, enter puberty, they are more likely to be noticed by sexual harassers. Parents need to pay close attention to this because if your child falls victim to sexual harassment, the child’s psychological consequences can last a lifetime.
Most parents are aware that sexual harassment is inevitable. However, parents, especially those who never have experienced it, may not be aware of the prevalence and severe consequences that their daughter is going through if they are harassed.
According to Dr. Stephanie Dowd, parents often tend to take these harassment cases lightly. When we assume that it is only a part of women’s lives, we are implying that the fact that girls who are victims of this problem feel hurt is an overreaction. Thinking that way is that we are agreeing with the predators’ actions. To protect their daughter from these predators, parents should respect their daughter’s feelings and be ready to listen to their daughters’ stories.
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Equip your child with knowledge and skills
As a parent, it is natural your desire to protect your child, but in reality, you will not be able to be with your child every day and every hour of his or her life. Instead of constantly controlling and monitoring your children, you should help your daughter equip the knowledge and skills to protect herself.
Part of protecting yourself is when your child becomes aware of actions and words that make them uncomfortable or unsafe. And they dare to say that whatever the other people are doing makes them feel uncomfortable and that behavior needs to be stopped.
Help your child set boundaries
Social stereotypes make girls misunderstand that to be liked, they have to be ready to respond to anyone’s request. This is the wrong point of view and girls need to understand that they don’t owe anyone’s attention, no matter how kind, famous the person is, or how pushy the situation might be.
Many girls are afraid of being viewed as difficult to get along with if they refuse when faced with vulgar sexual offers. A good example is your child may not be ready to have sex with his boyfriend, but doesn’t know how to say no for fear he won’t be happy.
Most importantly, make sure your girls understand that guys who respect their feelings and their decisions are someone who deserves their attention.
You can help your child set boundaries with the basics such as not letting anyone touch them when they are not comfortable with it. Whether it be shoulder-to-shoulder, kiss or any form of sex. You need to help your child practice saying no, even if he or she is under pressure from friends or anyone.
Keep your daughter safe when hanging out with friends
As girls get older, it is important to talk about how to hang out with friends safely. For example:
– Avoid alcohol and drugs.
–If your child attends a party, as a group, make sure they keep an eye on each other.
– Make sure the phone is always on and charged, in case you need to call a car or ask for help.
– Do not get in strangers’ cars, including those of your age.
– If someone is making you feel unsafe, shout and walk away. Do whatever it takes to get away from the person and keep shouting until someone comes to help.
Pay attention to the contents that your child is exposed to
The social media that girls are exposed to, influences the way they think. Some contents make girls think they should do everything to make boys like them because being liked by boys is a good thing.
Help them get rid of these thoughts by spending time with them watching their favorite movies or shows and taking the opportunity to point out examples of negative (and positive) romantic interactions. Example: “I feel like she said no many times, but he didn’t leave her alone. Do you think this is okay?”
Teach your child to analyze situations and say no
Below are some example questions to help your child assess his or her feelings as things get complicated:
-Am I comfortable or uncomfortable with what’s going on?
-Did I agree to let this happen because I’m afraid of hurting that person’s feelings?
-Am I happy to spend time with this person?
-Am I afraid that something bad will happen if I refuse this person?
–Are my friends forcing me to do this even though I don’t like it?
–Is this person asking me to do more than I can afford?
And you should also teach your daughter ways to respond if someone doesn’t respect her boundaries. For example: “I don’t like what you’re doing and I want you to stop” or “What you’re doing makes me uncomfortable.”
Public sexual harassment talking
Teen sexual harassment in public places is very common. If your daughter is sexually assaulted, her usual response is to smile or keep quiet. Help protect herself by talking openly about street harassment and working with your daughter about coping strategies. For example:
-Go into a store or restaurant.
– Ask a woman or another family walk with her until she is out of range. “These people are making me feel uncomfortable and I don’t feel safe. Can I walk with you out of this place? “
– Call your friends or family and keep on the phone until she feels safe.
– Take pictures of sexual harassers
Make sure your daughter believe that you are always there
If your daughter is seduced or sexually harassed, let her know that you are available to help and be with her even though she may not be ready to tell you about it. Respect their feelings, give them space and time to settle down and listen patiently as they share with you.
Most importantly, don’t blame sexual harassment on your child in particular or on all other women in general. We need to understand that sexual harassment is the harasser’s fault, not the person’s problem.
One of the reasons women feel guilty about being harassed is body shaming – when their bodies are judged. A positive outlook on your body is very important. If your daughter has aversion or low self-esteem towards her body, she will become extremely sensitive and vulnerable to verbal sexual harassment. Often then, children will less likely to share and seek help when being sexually harassed.
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