With so many students experiencing bullying, parents need to know how to protect and equip their children. Also on the rise in schools, sexual harassment is thought to have a greater negative impact on victims than bullying, making informed parents vital to their children’s protection against sexual harassment.
Why Victims May Not Report Abuse
Unfortunately, many victims of bullying do not report the abuse they undergo, because they fear it will only worsen if the bully finds out the victim told someone. Many victims might not report abuse, because they feel it is in some way their fault. Especially with sexual harassment abuse, students may feel deep shame over what has happened, and therefore will be unlikely to bring it up with a parent.
Since children may not tell parents if they are the victims of bullying or sexual harassment, it is crucial that parents are able to recognize the signs of bullying and sexual harassment.
Seeing the Signs
The first step to protecting your children from bullying and sexual harassment is learning to recognize the signs. The easiest type of abuse to catch is bullying that includes physical violence, which often leaves the victim with bruises or scrapes. If your child is dealing with psychological violence or sexual harassment, you need to be keenly aware of your child’s typical demeanor and habits so you can spot irregularities.
Academic or athletic performance may suffer, if the victim is experiencing feelings of hopelessness or helplessness. Your child might also exhibit depressive symptoms, which may include withdrawal from normal activities and excessive sleeping. There may also be behavioral symptoms, such as increased signs of stress, anxiety, or panic attacks. Closely monitor your child’s behavior for any of these changes in order to spot signs of sexual harassment early on.
Empower Your Child
If you do notice signs of bullying or sexual harassment in your child, it is very important to equip your child with the proper response tactics and knowledge. The fact is, most bullying takes place out of sight of teachers, parents, or other adults, which means children need to know how to react to bullying until they can find an adult. Make sure you talk to your children about these tips:
• Be assertive rather than aggressive
• Do not react with weapons of any sort
• Try to walk away first and foremost
• Find an adult immediately
• Always report what has happened
If a bully has decided to target your child repeatedly, the only way to help him/her in the long term is to tell the authorities what is going on. It may not keep the bully from coming after your child again, but it will make sure the authorities are on the lookout and quicker to respond in the future.
Dealing with Repeated Offenses
If your child is repeatedly bullied or sexually harassed, you should record the names, dates, and events your child describes to you. Report every incident to school officials, including teachers, counselors, and the principal. If nothing improves shortly, speak with the police. If the situation does not improve after speaking to the police, you need to consider legal action.
There are some steps a lawyer can help you take to fight bullying and sexual harassment. The most basic is to file a restraining order to keep the bully or harasser away from your child. A lawyer can also help you file an injunction to force the school to change your child’s schedule or otherwise prevent contact between the school and the bully. In extreme cases, your lawyer may even be able to have the bully or harasser expelled from your school altogether.
While taking legal action may sound drastic, every time children are bullied or sexually harassed, they experience trauma that will take time and potentially counseling to repair. Stay informed on bullying patterns, and communicate with your child often about their experiences.
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