We are proud to have advised on the creation of the Step Up, Speak Up! toolkit and the Project deSHAME campaign. Through our work on the Youth Advisory Board, we play an important role in representing young people’s voices, and getting our message heard.
Online sexual harassment isn’t okay, but it is becoming the norm because people are accepting it. It can have a huge effect on young people’s lives – people can really suffer from mental health issues as a result of online abuse. Harassment is harassment whether it’s in person or online.
Online sexual harassment is often overlooked or labelled as irresponsible teenagers sending inappropriate images which isn't always the case. It includes many more examples, such as creating ‘bait out’ pages to shame people, using misogynistic or homophobic comments to hurt people or editing photos with rude images to make people laugh. The burden of any online harassment must be assessed carefully and always be taken seriously.
It shouldn’t be assumed that everyone is educated about their online behaviour just because they can use a phone or laptop. Sometimes, young people don’t even realise that they don’t know how to manage online relationships. Due to this, they can be more prone to misunderstanding that explicit consent is needed for lots of situations online.
We all joined the Youth Board because online sexual harassment is so rarely spoken about, and yet it is so common. So many people have experienced some form of online sexual harassment yet they never tell anyone or know what to do when they find themselves in that situation. We want to make sure young people know where to find help if they need it, and that adults understand what young people need from them.
We want our schools to teach us about the signs of healthy and unhealthy relationships, and how they work in real, modern day life. We want to know how to see the line between joking and banter, and harassment and bullying. We also want to understand how safeguarding procedures work in school, and what would happen after someone makes a report.
One of the most important things adults need to do is ensure a victim of online sexual harassment doesn’t feel in any way that they created a problem for the school, the police or any other adults involved. We want them to keep in mind that the victim may feel embarrassed or scared, and might not want to tell the whole story straight away. They need to be constantly reminded that only the people who need to know will be told.
We are very proud of our contribution to these resources. We worked hard to make them useful, understandable and relatable. We’re determined to explain what is really going on with our generation and online sexual harassment. We hope that through our campaign we can help young people to recognise online sexual harassment does not have to be an unavoidable part of growing up. If we report it together, we can make a difference - for our generation and those following in our footsteps.
Step up, speak up and put an end to online sexual harassment.
Afua, Charlie, Harry, Holly, Ishaa, Lillie, Leah, Mohamed, Reece, and Sophie
The Youth Advisory Board is a group of ten young people from across the UK aged 16-19, who have advised and shaped the journey of Project deSHAME from its beginnings.
Find out more about each of the members here.