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Online sexual harassment

What is online sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is a type of sexual abuse which includes any form of unwanted sexual behaviour. It can happen anywhere (online or offline) and to anyone, regardless of their age or gender.

Online sexual harassment is unwanted sexual contact that takes place on a digital device, and can include:

  • Making sexual comments or jokes online or over text messages - this could be through memes or GIFs too
  • Sharing nudes of another person without their consent
  • Sending someone nudes they don’t want
  • Someone pressuring another person to send sexual images or have sexual conversations when they don’t want to
  • Sending someone pornography without their consent
  • Sharing sexual rumours about someone online
  • Taking sexual photos of someone without consent (also known as upskirting)
  • Threatening to share sexual rumours or photos of someone

What should I do if someone is sexually harassing me online?

All forms of sexual harassment are unacceptable. No one should ever think that it’s okay to make you feel uncomfortable.

If someone is sexually harassing you online, speak to someone who can help to make it stop.

Responding to unwanted sexual comments online

Take action if you see or hear about someone you know being targeted online:

  • Report comments. Social media platforms should not allow sexual harassment in the form of comments, photos and videos. If anything sexual is said to embarrass or hurt a young person, get it removed from the website or app by reporting it.
  • Speak to an adult. An adult you trust can help to report the incident(s) and stop it from happening again. If it’s happening between young people at school, a teacher should be able to step in and help. 
  • Say something about sexual harassment. When communities, schools and friendship groups don’t speak out about the inappropriate and unwanted sexual comments people make, it can make these issues worse. Challenge sexual harassment by talking to others about how unacceptable these comments are, and how they can make people feel.

The impact of online sexual harassment

Online sexual harassment is not just “part of growing up” or “not that upsetting because it’s only online”.  

Personal impact. Anyone who has experienced online sexual harassment is likely to feel upset, judged and humiliated. They may be at increased risk of experiencing mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. This might affect their education and future job opportunities.

School and community impact. Online sexual harassment can lead to unsafe environments for young people. Viewing online sexual harassment as normal or just a joke means that other people might join in to “fit in” with friends. This is never okay. Challenging online sexual harassment will help to keep healthy and positive school and community spaces.

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If you are under 18, report online sexual abuse to one of our Child Protection Advisors at the CEOP Safety Centre.

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If you're over 18, call 101 to speak to your local police. 

In an emergency

If you're ever in immediate harm or danger: 

  • Call the police on 999 straight away
  • Tell an adult you trust who will be able to support you through a difficult time

Talk to someone

Childline logo

Free, confidential support online and over the phone for young people under 19.

www.childline.org.uk

Call 0800 1111

The Mix logo

The Mix is a charity that provides free information and support for under 25s.

www.themix.org.uk

Use their crisis messenger by texting THEMIX to 85258.

See all help

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