How is Flirting Different than Sexual Harassment?
There is a difference between flirting and sexual harassment.
Many times, flirting is welcome attention. It goes both ways, and both people enjoy it. Flirting doesn't make you feel bad. It's perfectly fine for kids to flirt with each other in school. Flirting is OK because it can be between two classmates who are both doing the flirting, and no one is being dishonored. But it is not OK for adults to flirt with kids. In fact, it is illegal for adults to flirt with kids.
Sexual harassment is attention or actions that are not wanted and make you feel bad. If somebody flirts and it is unwanted, ask him or her to stop. If they don't stop, it is considered harassment. It is illegal to harass somebody. The key difference between flirting and sexual harassment is that sexual harassment is unwelcome. The contact was not invited or accepted. It is one-sided because only one of the people in the situation wants to be in that situation. It does not matter how the harasser says he or she "meant it"; it only matters how it makes you feel.
Sexual harassment is never OK, and nobody ever deserves it. If you are harassed, be sure to report it. If a friend is harassed, talk to them and make sure they report it. The harasser needs to be stopped.
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Below are sources PAMF accessed when researching this topic. PAMF, however, does not sponsor or endorse any of these sites, nor does PAMF guarantee the accuracy of the information contained on them.
Teen Victim Project, National Center for Victims of Crime. Accessed March 2008.
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Crisis Lines and Hotlines
Hotlines for Teens, (.pdf).