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Various Authors 6:38 p.m., Sept. 24
The line between sexual harassment and innocent flirtation can be a hazy one. Especially for teenagers and preteens who crave attention from the opposite sex. It is extremely important that teens understand where that line should be drawn and how to handle a situation in which sexual harassment occurs. Sexual harassment comes in many forms: from unwanted physical contact to unwanted communication or verbal interactions. One of the key differences between flirting and harassment is whether or not the attention is welcomed and positive. Flirting is a two way street, and it should invoke positive emotions, and self-esteem. Sexual harassment, on the other hand, is one sided and can leave the victim feeling powerless, violated, or put down. It is important for teens to be able to recognize how they feel when they are being pursued and to speak up when they become uncomfortable. If they do not speak up it is likely that the person doing the harassing is unaware that their actions are unwanted. Unfortunately, 81 percent of students will experience sexual harassment while they attend school. If your teen is the victim of sexual harassment here are some tips to stop the behavior and get help. Your teen needs to confront the harasser, explain how uncomfortable they are, and tell the harasser that his or her behavior needs to stop. If the harassment persists look up your school’s sexual harassment policy, and report the harassment to the appropriate official. Have your teen keep a record of all the inappropriate comments, texts, calls, and touches, as evidence to support your case when you inform the school. If the school is incapable or unwilling to address the issue the next step would be to talk to the police. Beyond taking the appropriate steps to stop the harassment it is also essential that you support your teen emotionally. Avoid being judgmental or critical, and remain calm. Your teen needs your strength and understanding, especially if you want to develop an open and honest relationship. Just listen to your teen and try not to give any advice initially. It is also helpful to remind your teen that you are proud of them, you love them, you support them, and that you are glad they were able to come to you with this information. Supportive, loving parenting can make a world of difference.