In a 1992 survey of girls in grades 2 through 12, 89% of the respondents said they had been targets of unwanted sexual gestures, looks, or comments.
What's the difference between flirting and sexual harassment? Flirting can be fun, you take a willing part in it, and it's playful and harmless. Sexual harassment is not fun. It may take the form of an unwanted or lewd remark, a note with sexual content, or actual grabbing of one's body, sometimes just “for fun.” It isn't always initiated by a man and directed at a woman, either, even though women are usually the targets of this kind of abuse. It can make victims feel violated, depressed, inferior, and scared. Sexual harassment in its many forms has become widespread, especially in American schools. Here are some tips on what you should do if you feel you are the target of sexual harassment.
- Don't ignore it — that won't make it go away. If you feel uncomfortable or scared, tell someone.
- Keep a written record of any incident. Include names of witnesses if there are any. Save any notes that are sexually explicit.
- Tell the person to stop. With the help of a trustworthy adult, write a letter describing the harassment and demanding that it stop and deliver it to the harasser. Save a copy of your letter.
- Never blame yourself for the harassment. Remember that you are not trapped or helpless. Your parents and school officials can help you.
- Notify a guidance counselor, teacher, or principal who will believe you and will do something. If all else fails, send a letter to your state's department of education describing what happened.
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