Safeguarding Topic: Peer-on-Peer Sexual Harassment

Peer-on-Peer Sexual Harassment

Would you believe that 97% of women in the UK have been sexually harassed and that 96% do not report out of belief that it wouldn’t change anything? 

97% is a terrifyingly large percentage, which would mean approximately 34,677,500 million young women have been sexually harassed. This sounds insane and even unbelievable, but how many of you in your social circles have heard women open up about this, how many times have you heard reports of this on the news, or how many of you have had relatives that unfortunately experienced this?

The sad reality is that sexual harassment is extremely common.

Peer-on-peer sexual abuse/harassment is a type of sexual abuse/harassment that happens between young people of similar age or stage of development.

Take a look at the image below:


What are your thoughts about the image above, was it peer-on-peer sexual harassment?

You know many might make comments like “She should have seen the signs”, or “From the first argument she should have just left.” or “She didn’t have to give in, she could have reported him.” or the most disgusting of them all.. ” she wanted it, if she didn’t she would have left.” It’s interesting despite the surge of campaigns (i.e. the METOO movement), Sexual Abuse/harassment awareness workshops and gripping news stories and case studies regarding sexual abuse and harassment, many still hold this view.

The visual scenario in the image above is a clear example of peer-on-peer sexual harassment. The young woman was sent sexually explicit pictures via text, she was also coerced into having sex as well as touched sexually despite making it clear that she found it uncomfortable.

The sad reality is that globally 1 in 3 women, around 736 million are subjected to physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner or sexual violence and 1 in 9 girls under the age of 18 experience sexual abuse or assault.

What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment refers to any unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature that makes you feel distressed, intimidated, or humiliated.

Sexual harassment can include:

  • Your body being stared and leered at
  • Being subjected to sexual jokes or propositions
  • Someone displaying sexually explicit pictures in your space or a shared space, like at work
  • Someone making sexually degrading comments or gestures
  • E-mails or text messages with sexual content
  • Physical behaviour, including unwelcome sexual advances and touching
  • Offers of rewards in return for sexual favours

Who is at risk?

People are most likely to be at risk of sexual abuse within their family and community. It can happen in a wide range of settings including:

  • School
  • At home or in someone else’s home
  • In public spaces
  • Online
  • It can take place in spaces which are supervised or unsupervised in spaces such as toilets, the playground, and corridors and when people are walking home.

Why is it that people’s understanding of peer-on-peer sexual abuse is quite limited?

Often we see heated debates on internet forums regarding peer-on-peer abuse. What is clearly peer-to-peer abuse for one person is seen as just a bit inappropriate for someone else. Unfortunately, some may not always understand that they have experienced or carried out peer-on-peer sexual abuse. This might be due to the fact that:

  • They don’t always understand what constitutes appropriate, inappropriate, problematic, or abusive sexualised behaviour.
  • They have experienced sexual abuse themselves and don’t realise that what happened to them was wrong
  • They don’t know whether consent was given 
  • The abuse happened between friends or partners 
  • The abuse took place online 
  • They blame themselves for the abuse they received 
  • They lack knowledge of sex and sexuality as they are less likely to have received any relationships and sex education 
  • Harmful sexual behaviour includes a range of behaviour, which can be displayed against younger children, peers, older children or adults; it can occur online / offline or a mixture of both  

Sexual Consent

Consent is defined as “free agreement”, essentially meaning that you have given permission and that someone has given you permission to engage in any intimate activity for sex. Any sexual activity without consent is illegal regardless of the age of the people involved. The age of consent for sexual activity is 16 in the UK. 

The act of covering the crime of rape provides a list of situations where consent or ‘free agreement’ is deemed to be absent. This includes: 

  • When the victim is asleep or unconscious 
  • When the victim agrees or submits to the conduct because of violence or threats of violence used against them, or any other person. 
  • When the victim is incapable of consenting because of the effect of alcohol or any other substance 





Thank you for reading this month’s safeguarding topic. 


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