Sexual harassment: What it is & what to do
Sexual harassment can be all sorts of things. In general, it happens in all situations in which a person doesn’t respect your limits.
Examples can be a partner who doesn’t listen when you say you don’t want to have sex. A man who rubs up against you on the dance floor. A woman who shows a sexual photo of you to everyone. And of course sexual assault, or rape.
- Be clear about what you want and what you don’t want.
- Be careful with recordings with a webcam. The video can be passed on to other people.
- Don’t let someone put you under pressure. Don’t think you’re strange if you say no. It’s your body and your choice!
- Stop a friendship or relationship if the other person doesn’t respect you.
Usually someone you know
It’s usually someone you know who goes beyond your limits. Your boyfriend or girlfriend, an internet date, or a teacher at school… This makes it complicated to say you don’t want it. You like someone, but you don’t like what they’re doing. It’s best to be very clear about what you want and don’t want. Don’t say ‘maybe’ if you mean ‘no’.
It’s not only women who run into unwanted sexual behaviour. Men can also be sexually harassed. For example by a sports trainer who likes you, or your best friend’s older brother who wants to show you what a blow-job is. Or by your girlfriend who doesn’t want you to break up with her.
If the worst happens
If the worst happens and someone forces you to have sex, don’t keep it to yourself. Tell someone and talk about it. It’s a terrible experience to be sexually assaulted or raped. It’s natural to feel absolutely devastated.
You might want to spend hours under the shower and preferably forget about what has happened as quickly as possible.
But you can’t because the memories keep coming back. You might have nightmares and feel terrified of meeting the person who assaulted or raped you.
You can feel very small and alone. You might also have pain in your abdomen or genitals. You might be scared you are pregnant or have caught a sexually transmitted disease. If so, go to the doctor or a clinic and get a check up.
What can you do?
Talk about it. Choose someone you trust: your mother, your best friend, your sister, your father, someone at school, or someone via internet if you prefer. Tell them what has happened. Ask for support so you feel stronger again.
And think about whether you want to report what has happened to the police – realistically, this may depend on where you live.
Guilt and shame
Victims often feel guilty – they think it’s their own fault. Which it isn’t! No one has the right to force another person to have sex. Even if you’re his girlfriend, or you said yes the last time. And also not because you’re wearing a sexy dress or you let him buy you a drink.
Victims also feel ashamed or embarrassed. You think everyone can tell what’s happened to you. Anyone who’s been forced to have sex against their will feel like this. It’s normal. You’re not overreacting. Your confidence has taken a serious knock; you feel like the world is a lot less safe and friendly place than you thought it was.
You might also feel repulsed by people, or sex, or your own body. If you feel deeply unhappy, depressed, or afraid, you should seek help.