Sexual Harassment and Abuse

What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment can happen to men, women 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 can happen in person or in other ways, for example online through things like email, social media or messaging tools.

Sexual harassment can take lots of forms, including:

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

Your experiences of sexual harassment

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

40% had been physically followed in a way that made them feel unsafeor uncomfortable
83% said they had experienced sexual harassment outside of school
50% had experienced sexual harassment within school
50% said they felt pressured into sending intimate pictures of themselves online

Quotes from young people

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

(KRYC sexual harassment survey, Achieving for Children 2021)

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.

What is a sexual assault?

Sexual assault happens when someone touches another person in a sexual manner without their consent. Or when someone makes another person take part in a sexual activity with them without that person's consent.

It could include:

  • Kissing
  • Attempted rape
  • Touching someone's breasts or genitals – including through clothing
  • Touching any other part of the body for sexual pleasure or in a sexual manner – for example, stroking someone's thigh or rubbing their back
  • Pressing up against another person for sexual pleasure
  • Pressuring, manipulating or scaring someone into performing a sexual act
  • Touching someone's clothing if done for sexual pleasure or in a sexual manner – for example, lifting up someone's skirt

Sexual assault and consent

Sexual violence or assault can happen to anyone of any age.

Sexual assault is an act that is carried out without a person's active consent. This means they did not agree to it.

Consent means saying "yes" to what happened.

Being intoxicated, not being asked, saying nothing, or saying yes to something else, is not consent.

Being in a relationship or married to someone is not consent.

Read more about consent here.

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.

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



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.

The helpline is free, anonymous and 24/7.

Call: 0800 1111


Victim support

Call our national phone line for free on 0808 168 9111, 24/7

Rape Crisis

Call 0808 802 9999 to talk on the phone.