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5 Things Our Children Need to Know about Sexual Harassment
By Barb Huff
The words sexual harassment usually pit our stomachs as women. We’ve grown up with the Clarence Thomas case and recently heard accusations against Arnold Schwarzenegger and other high-profile cases of mistreatment of women, but how often do we talk with our preteens and teens about the sexual harassment happening around them?
The Office for Civil Rights (a part of the Department of Education) states that four out of five students will be the victim of sexual harassment this coming school year. They report that just as many boys as girls will be involved as both victims and perpetrators and that harassment goes well beyond our school borders into our neighborhoods, youth groups, and other childhood hang-outs.
So what should our children know? Here are 5 key elements that we need to teach our children—both male and female.
- Sexual harassment is defined by the Department of Education as ANY unwanted behavior that is sexual in nature. This includes, but not limited to, jokes, name-calling, picture-drawing, clothing with sexual innuendoes or messages, graffiti, sexual gestures, talk of sexual acts in the presence of others, spreading rumors of a sexual nature about others, and, of course, unwanted touches or inappropriate touches of the perpetrator on his person.
- Our children need to understand that these types of inappropriate advances can come from members of the opposite sex or from members of the same sex. With the growing acceptance of homosexuality in our culture and the bombardment of that acceptance in the media, same sex harassment is on the uprise.
- We need to make it clear to our boys that there is no shame in reporting sexual harassment towards them. If the behavior is making them uncomfortable, then it is unwanted, and therefor harassment. There is nothing "manly" about being bullied, and there is no question in God’s eye about a victim’s sexuality if he is harassment by another male.
- Sexual harassment is not about healthy relationships as God defines them. Sexual harassment is not about love. It is only about power by one person over another. Like most bullies, these perpetrators are using taunts and advances to establish a "pecking order" and place themselves higher than the victim in the inevitable school social system. Children with high self-esteem are less likely to allow such behavior to put them lower in that social scale than the perpetrator.
- Sexual harassment is illegal and immoral behavior. We need to educate our children that not only do they not have to take such behavior but they also cannot take part in such behavior towards another. We need to teach our children that being a silent participator by letting those around us do it is still wrong in the law’s eye and, more importantly, God’s.
No child needs to deal with pressure from their peers of any kind, but sexual harassment is one that needs to be addressed from a biblical perspective in our homes for our children to be able to combat it. For the sake of their future healthy relationships, we need to speak out and educate our children on what sexual harassment is.
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