Have you heard about sexual harassment? But still not clear what it is? You're not alone.

A 2022 Kingston & Richmond Youth Council survey showed that many of the 300 boys and young men who answered were unsure about which words and behaviours were regarded as "going too far". Make sure you are clear about sexual harassment.

Our survey showed

Three boys in hoodies
38% of boys said they wouldn’t report what they witnessed because they wouldn't know if it was sexual harassment
50% said school hadn't taught them how to support a friend who'd been sexually harassed
50% of girls said they'd been harassed in school
69% said they might not intervene if they witnessed their friends sexually harassing someone

What the boys said

A lot of perpetrators don't know what they do or what they witness is actually sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment could decrease a great deal if only we were educated about it.

Boys aren't taught about what it means to be a man. Masculinity doesn't mean aggression and dominance but kindness, strength and compassion.

No child should have to deal with sexual harassment in school – you are supposed to feel more safe.

It takes strong men to stand up and call out inappropriate comments.

Be clear – What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment can happen to women, men, and people of any gender identity or sexual orientation. It can be carried out by anyone of the same sex, a different sex or anyone of any gender identity.

Sexual harassment can be a one-off incident or an ongoing pattern of behaviour. It describes words or behaviours which are intended to make someone feel upset, scared, humiliated or offended.

It can happen in person or in other ways, for example online through things like social media or messaging tools.

Sexual harassment can take lots of forms, including:

  • Someone making sexually degrading comments or gestures about someone's body, clothing or appearance
  • Your body being stared or leered at
  • Telling sexually offensive jokes about someone's sexual activity, sexual orientation or gender
  • Physical behaviour, including unwelcome sexual advances and touching
  • Someone showing sexually explicit pictures in your space or a shared space
  • Asking questions about someone's sex life
  • Offers of rewards in return for sexual favours
  • Sexual assault or rape

Harassment or Banter?

What some people might consider as joking or 'banter' is still sexual harassment if the behaviour:

  • is of a sexual nature
  • is unwanted
  • humiliates or diminishes someone's self-worth
  • creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading or offensive environment for someone

Girls' experience of sexual harassment

In 2021, young people in the Kingston and Richmond Youth Council distributed a survey to over 800 young women between the ages of 11 to 19 living in the local area, to understand their views and experiences of sexual harassment.

Girls leaning against a wall
40% had been physically followed in a way that made them feel unsafe or uncomfortable
50% had experienced sexual harassment within school
50% said they felt pressured into sending intimate pictures of themselves online

What the girls said

Sexual harassment stops me doing what I love and want to do.

The feeling of constant nervousness when I am alone is horrible… I don’t want younger girls to have to feel this as they grow up.

The issue faced is twofold, not only do young women face sexual harassment, but they feel unsupported in dealing with it.

7 Ways to #StepUp – Make a difference

So how can we all step up to find the solutions right now?

  • Tune into this podcast on masculinity – what does it mean to be a man? Ask your teacher or tutor to play the podcast
  • How quickly can you spot the signs? Take the challenge with the Mayor of London's 'say Maaate to a mate' interactive video
  • Don't feel pressured to laugh along to sexist conversations or 'banter'
  • Call out bad language and sexist behaviour among your friends
  • If you see or hear something happening – check in on the banter – is everyone really feeling OK?
  • If you are worried about somebody being sexually harassed and not sure what to do – don't remain silent, speak to your head of year/student services for advice
  • Ask your school/college/university to #StepUp and become a White Ribbon supporter organisation.

Getting Help

If you've been sexually harassed or assaulted it's important to remember that it was not your fault. Sexual violence is a crime, no matter who commits it or where it happens. Don't be afraid to get help.

Don't be afraid to get help.

NSPCC – Child Protection Helpline

Helpline for anyone concerned a child is at risk.

The helpline is free, anonymous and 24/7.

Call: 0808 800 5000

Email: help@nspcc.org.uk

Visit: www.nspcc.org.uk

Childline (for children and young people up to 18 years old)

You can contact Childline about anything. Whatever your worry, it’s better out than in. They will support you and help you find ways to cope. Childline is open 24 hours a day over Christmas and New Year, so you can contact them any time.

Call: 0800 1111

Visit: www.childline.org.uk

Report an incident to the Police on 101 (non-emergency). If it's an emergency, please call 999.

Women & Girls Network

Live Chat: One to one Live Chat text service Monday to Thursday 10am – 4pm

Visit: www.wgn.org.uk/our-services/advice-and-helplines/web-chat

Helpline: Free and confidential emotional support from a specialist helpline team.
Tel: 0808 801 0770

Visit: www.wgn.org.uk/our-services/advice-and-helplines/sexual-violence-helpline


Switchboard LGBT Helpline: 0800 999 5428

Visit: www.switchboard.lgbt/

Rape Crisis


Call 0808 802 9999 to talk on the phone.

National Male Survivors Helpline

Call: 0808 800 5005

Visit: www.safeline.org.uk/get-help/