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Supporting young people's sexual health

Sexual harassment

Experiencing sexual harassment can be very upsetting.

What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is any kind of unwanted sexual behaviour. It can happen anywhere:

  • at school
  • on the way to school
  • on the street
  • on the bus
  • or at college or work.


66% of girls age 14 – 21 in the UK have experienced unwanted sexual attention or unwanted sexual or physical contact in a public space.

38% have experienced verbal harassment, like catcalling, wolf-whistling, and sexual comments at least once a month.

Plan UK (2018)


Although sexual harassment is more likely to affect girls and women, it can happen to people of any gender identity or sexual orientation.

It can be carried out by anyone. People of the same sex, a different sex, or any gender identity.


Some forms of sexual harassment include:

  • sexual gestures, comments, or jokes
  • showing sexual photos or videos in public places such as schools, work, or college
  • spreading sexual rumours
  • staring at someone’s body or making comments about their body
  • sexualising someone in a work or learning environment
  • using sexual insults, for example ‘slut’ or ‘whore’


It is never your fault for being on the receiving end of harassment.

What can I do if I experience sexual harassment?


Speak to someone you trust if you are experiencing sexual harassment.


At school

If the sexual harassment is happening at school, speak to your support for pupils teacher or another adult you trust within the school. The Scottish Government is currently working on a sexual harassment toolkit for schools to make the response more effective for young people, so the behaviour stops. Equally Safe at School has more information and support.


At college

If you are experiencing sexual harassment in college, speak to someone you trust. Universities and colleges will have a student association who have information on resources and services available for you to access.


At Work

There are laws that cover sexual harassment in the workplace. It is not always easy to report these behaviours. Not everyone understands how upsetting these behaviours can be.

The most important thing to do is speak to someone you trust about getting support, whether you choose to report the behaviour or not.

Young Scot has more information on Working, Opportunities, Rights & Knowledge (W.O.R.K) and is an information source for young people created in partnership with Developing Young Workforce.


What does the law say?

Some forms of sexual harassment will be covered under sexual offence laws. Other types of sexual harassment will be covered under other laws.

If harassment is persistent and comes from the same person, you could get a non-harassment order or other protective orders against the person who is sexually harassing you. Young Scot have more information and support on what the law says.

There are campaigns happening to put pressure on governments so they will improve the law on stopping sexual harassment.

Street Harassment: It’s not ok

Plan International Uk have a campaign called Street Harassment: It’s not ok.

It shows what is not banter and what sexual harassment looks like. It encourages young men to have #awordwithyourself and then your mates. Take a look at the video.

Do you think this is ok?

This campaign is called #Isthisok. It is aimed at men and boys, challenging their behaviours to tackle sexual harassment of women and girls in public spaces.

Take a look at the video.

Get support

Speak to someone you trust if you are experiencing sexual harassment.

Your safety is the most important thing. If you are feeling unsafe, or you need emergency medical attention, call 999 to reach the police or ambulance services.

Below are some trusted websites and organisations, which have lots of practical tips and advice.

Young Scot have more information on sexual harassment. Their great “That’s Not OK” scenarios help people to understand the signs that something is not right and say “That’s Not OK”.

Childline have more information on Sexual harassment. If you need to speak to someone now call 0800 1111, or chat online with a 1-2-1 counsellor. You can talk to them about anything. No problem is too big or small.

If you are worried about anything you can alwasy speak to a trusted adulted you know or someone at sexual health centre.

Need to talk to someone now?

Helplines and places to go for help

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