How can I talk to my child about sexual harassment?

Talking about sexual harassment with your child can feel tricky. But it’s important to make space for open and honest conversations. This can help your child understand what’s acceptable and how to keep themselves safe.

Understand what sexual harassment means

Sexual harassment includes:

  • Unwelcome sexual advances.
  • Requests for sexual favours.
  • Any other unwanted verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.

Anyone can be a victim of sexual harassment. They can be any age, gender, ethnicity or sexuality.

Different types of sexual harassment

Sexual harassment can happen at school or out in the community. It can also take place online via social media. This can be difficult to think about. But understanding the situation can help you support your child.

Examples of sexual harassment include:

  • Unwanted physical touching, bumping, grabbing or patting. This includes lifting up skirts and tops.
  • Insulting comments or name calling of a sexual nature. This may also include remarks about gender, race, religion, ability or sexuality.
  • Rating peers on their appearance and sharing results with others.
  • Graffiti on public places like walls or on personal property. This may be drawings or comments of a sexual nature.
  • Unwanted attention that makes someone feel uncomfortable or change their behaviour.
  • Sharing of sexual pictures.

Create opportunities to talk to your child

Find moments to speak to your child and help them understand.  Talk to your child about what’s acceptable behaviour. Explain what’s not. Depending on the age of your child, you might find it helpful to speak about consent.

  • Try to avoid judgment. If your child has worries, don’t dismiss their concerns. Listen to what they have to say. Praise them for talking about it.
  • Watch out for language that may dismiss or normalise sexual harassment. For example, labelling it as “part of growing up” or “banter”.
  • Encourage your child to speak up if they see sexual harassment at school. Make sure they know who they can talk to. This could be a teacher or student support staff.

If you’re worried your child is experiencing sexual harassment, encourage them to speak to the school. Or offer to do this for them. Helplines like Shout or  The Mix can also help them get support.

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This advice was written by our experienced Parent Talk coaches. Parent Talk is a free online service for parents and carers, provided by the charity Action for Children. For more advice, message our parenting coaches with our online chat.

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