Sexual bullying is any instance when youth use sexual words, acts, images, threats, or any other behavior in any manner to distress, harm, taunt, demean, humiliate, and/or embarrass other youth who do not welcome, encourage, or want to participate in the exchange.
Sexual bullying may occur once, or it may occur frequently. It encompasses a wide variety of behaviors and is perpetrated by youth against their peers. It can occur in person, online, or digitally.
In some instances, such as spreading rumors about a classmate, a victim may not even know it is occurring.
When schools prioritize awareness initiatives, like Step Up. Step In., a cultural shift can occur to stop sexual bullying. When left unchecked, however, sexual bullying brings tangible consequences to victims, as well as to the schools and communities around them.
Spreading demeaning rumors about individuals or groups is one of many forms of sexual bullying.
Conversation about sexual topics or acts
Lewd, suggestive, or demeaning remarks
Derogatory names based upon real or rumored sexual activity
Derogatory names based upon real, rumored, or perceived sexual orientation
Sex-based or demeaning rumors about individuals or groups
Coercion by force or threat
Written correspondence about, or that suggests, sexual acts or uses sex to demean recipients
Graffiti that appears on personal belongings or in public space
Live or recorded video, audio, and any other format
Sending, forwarding, or keeping sexually explicit content without permission
Non-violent or violent touching
Groping and grabbing of a sexual nature
Tugging, touching, or snapping undergarments
While some instances of sexual bullying are obvious and happen, often incredibly, right before our eyes, others are more difficult to detect, but the harm to all victims and perpetrators can be long-lasting.
That’s because sexual bullying often occurs on social media apps and websites that youth access through smart phones, tablets, and computers – where adults forget or don’t even know to look. The popularity of apps changes very quickly, especially among youth, which makes monitoring them even more challenging for adults.