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What Is Sexual Bullying?

Sexual harassment, assault and abuse against children can take many forms. One example is sexual bullying, which can involve degrading remarks, rumors or threats of a sexual nature, often in a school or similar setting. If left unaddressed, sexual bullying can escalate into physical acts of sexual violence, including child molestation and rape.

Defining Sexual Bullying

Sexual bullying is a broad term that can describe any physical or nonphysical acts of bullying that have sexual undertones or context. It can refer to bullying or harassing a victim based on his or her sex, sexual preferences, gender or gender expression. It can also refer to sexually inappropriate bullying behaviors, such as physical sexual assault or abuse. 

Sexual bullying is often a form of school sexual abuse, but it can also occur in group settings such as sports, camps, clubs, churches, Boy Scouts, after-school programs, field trips, playgroups and community centers. In addition, sexual bullying can pervade virtual spaces, known as cyberbullying.

Examples of Sexual Bullying

The definition of sexual bullying is broad. It can describe many acts of sexual harassment, discrimination, assault, abuse or exploitation. Sexual bullying can involve various actions and behaviors, such as:

  • Verbal sexual harassment, such as sexually explicit jokes or comments about someone
  • Insults about a person’s appearance or sexual orientation
  • Spreading rumors or gossip of a sexual nature about someone
  • Sexual bullying through electronic means
  • Revenge porn, or spreading explicit images of someone without consent
  • Producing or distributing child pornography
  • Coercing someone into sexual acts using threats or blackmail
  • Aggressive or intimidating actions of a sexual nature
  • Physical acts that make the victim feel scared, uncomfortable or ashamed
  • Sexual assault, such as touching or groping someone without consent
  • Rape, attempted rape, statutory rape and sodomy

Sexual bullying can affect individuals of all ages, both male and female. It may involve a group of bullies singling one victim out or a single bully targeting a victim.

How Can You Tell if Your Child Is a Victim of Sexual Bullying?

Sexual bullying is a serious issue that can have significant repercussions for a victim. An individual who is targeted by a sexual bully in school or elsewhere may exhibit changes in his or her physical state, behaviors, emotions and personality.

Potential signs of sexual bullying include:

  • Physical injuries or complaints, such as headaches or stomachaches
  • Symptoms of emotional distress, such as depression or anxiety
  • Social withdrawal or isolation from others
  • Nightmares, bedwetting or trouble sleeping
  • Sudden fear of a certain person or place
  • Loss of interest in school, hobbies or activities
  • Decreased self-esteem or self-confidence
  • Unkempt appearance or poor hygiene
  • Changes in eating patterns or fluctuations in weight
  • Decline in academic performance or skipping school
  • Unusual knowledge of sexual subjects for age

If your child is exhibiting warning signs of sexual bullying, have an open and honest conversation with him or her about it. Explain that he or she is safe and will not get in trouble for speaking up. If your child discloses any type of sexual harassment or sex crime, report it immediately.

Taking Legal Action Against Sexual Bullying in Illinois

Report sexual bullying to the school or organization without delay. Involve the police if you believe a sex crime was committed against your child. Get your child the medical care that he or she needs, which may include a sexual assault forensic exam and mental health counseling or support. 

When you are ready to hold one or more parties accountable for a case of sexual bullying, contact Mahoney Law Firm to request a free legal review. Our child sexual abuse lawyers will listen to your story and inform you of your legal rights and options, which may include filing a civil lawsuit against a school or institution for failing to protect your child.