Online Sexual Harassment

A range of unwanted sexual behaviours that occur online. These could happen on any online platform and could include content such as photos, videos, posts, webpages, messages or fake profiles.

Questions you may have:

  • What behaviours are classed as online sexual harassment? Open or Close

    Any type of behaviour that uses sexual content to harass or bully someone online could be classed as online sexual harassment. Even if the harassment was intended as a joke, or was a misunderstanding, it is the experience of the victim that defines whether it is sexual harassment or not.

  • Where does online sexual harassment take place? Open or Close

    Online sexual harassment can take place anywhere online and on any device. You might see or experience it in a game chat or on social media for example. The online sexual harassment could be shared publicly or privately. 

    Public - Gossip about someone’s sexual orientation may be posted online for others to see.

    Private - Someone may receive private messages with threats about their nude images being shared on.

  • How can it make people feel? Open or Close

    Sexual harassment that happens online can make a person feel any of the following:

    • Threatened or scared
    • Exploited or coerced
    • That their dignity is violated
    • Humiliated or degraded
    • Shamed or judged
    • Upset
    • Sexualised
    • Discriminated against because of their gender or sexual orientation
    • Feel guilty or that they are to blame

    Online sexual harassment can affect different people in different ways. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to feel. People who have been a target of online sexual harassment may also be worried about the threat of content resurfacing online in the future.

    As well people who experience online sexual harassment, anyone who witnesses it happening to someone else online may also be affected.

  • Who can I talk to? Open or Close

    Trained counsellors

    You can speak or chat online with trained counsellors at Childline and The Mix. Talking to someone is often the first step to getting help and support. Trained counsellors can listen and offer advice on what to do next. You may speak to a trained counsellor first but it is also a good idea to talk to a parent and carer too.  

    Parents and carers

    It can be difficult but in order for them to support you they need to know something has happened. Let them know how you are feeling – you may feel worried or embarrassed at first, but all they want to do is help you.

    A trusted adult 

    You might find it easier to talk to a trusted adult like a youth worker or teacher. They can listen to you and help you plan out your next steps. This could include help with reporting and blocking as well as arranging any counselling and support. 

     

     

  • It has happened to me...what should I do? Open or Close

    Sexual harassment is never acceptable – online or offline. Here are some steps that you can take straight away:

    1. Block them - Blocking stops that person being able to message you or see what you are sharing online.
    2. Report them - Reporting is anonymous and lelts online platforms such as social media and gaming networks know what has happened and who did it. If it still online you can tell them where it is and that you want it removed. If the content breaks terms and conditions, it should be taken down. 
    3. Talk to someone - It can be hard asking for help, but in a situation like this it is really important. Family members, school staff and your friends all want to make sure you are safe. In order for them to help you they need to know the whole story. Let them know what has happened, what you are worried about and what you need help with. You may want to talk to trained counsellor from organisations such as Childline and The Mix first but it is also a good idea to talk to a parent and carer too. 
  • I want to tell someone, will I get in trouble? Open or Close

    We know it can be difficult to tell someone and that some people worry about getting into trouble for reporting. It is important to remember that you are trying to help the situation and that support is there for you and anyone else involved. There are adults around you that care about you and want to help you.

  • A stranger has made sexual requests to me online, what can I do? Open or Close

    If you or someone you know is being sexually harassed online by a stranger, tell a trusted adult and report them to CEOP.

    CEOP are specialist police officers and part of their role is to protect young people from unwanted contact like this.

  • What can I do if I see someone else experiencing online sexual harassment? Open or Close

    To put an end to online sexual harassment it is important that you don’t ignore it. You should report what you have seen to the site, app or game. Please do not worry about the person finding out because reporting is anonymous.  

    It is also important to talk to someone too, this could be a friend, a teacher or someone at home. You might be upset by what you have seen or want to talk things through. If the harassment is going on between people you know it can be very difficult to know what to do so talking to someone can really help.  

  • Is online sexual harassment always illegal? Open or Close

    No. Not all online sexual harassment will be illegal or a crime but is important to remember that this is unwanted sexual behaviour. Whether the incident is illegal or not, any unwanted behaviour that affects someone else in a negative way is never acceptable.

  • When does online sexual harassment break the law? Open or Close

    Some instances of online sexual harassment may break the law.

    Impersonating other people online, sending threatening messages and re-sharing other people’s nude images are some types of behaviours that can break the law.

    If the police became involved, they would need to know all the details of the incident in order to decide how to proceed with the case.

    If you have any questions around nude images and the law you can find answers here.  

Top Tips

  1. Trust your feelings. Any unwanted sexualised contact from someone online is online sexual harassment.
  2. Online sexual harassment is not ok. If you experience any unwanted sexual contact online it is important to know that it is not acceptable and never your fault.
  3. Block them. Blocking stops the person being able to message you or see the things you post in future
  4. Report. Let the app, game or site know what has happened and provide any evidence you have. Encourage others to report too.
  5. Talk to someone. It can be difficult but talking to someone is the first step to making the situation better. You might talk to a friend or trained counsellor online but it is important to speak to the adults around you that support you too.