Sexual Bullying Disrupts Childhood
Sexual bullying can put a child’s life at risk—forcing them to behave promiscuously and robbing them of their innocence. Together, we can change that.
Sexual bullying is a type of harassment that occurs in connection with a child’s sex, body, sexual orientation or with sexual activity itself. Today this is a serious problem because of the varying models of cultural acceptability. Sexual bullying is occurring over the internet as it encourages children to act immodestly by taking naked selfies. It encourages the use of sexualised language in younger children, and unwarranted touching and physical advances.
Sexual language and vulgar comments which are more than childish fun can destroy the dreams of childhood. If they leave the target upset, embarrassed or afraid, then it is harassment. Certain images and inappropriate jokes can make up sexual bullying.
A teenager or even younger on the receiving end of sexual bullying is likely to receive insults, become a victim of cyberbullying, ostracized, shamed and gossiped about. It can cause untold distress and can lead to serious repercussions for the young person who is the target.
While early gay and lesbian orientation is now an accepted and even promoted part of school life in the UK, not everyone is happy about it. Children at school must cope with the fall-outs and prejudices of this recent change. Homophobic bullying can lead to severe psychological breakdown.
Child sexual abuse online
When sexual exploitation happens online, the perpetrator may persuade or bully young people to:
- Send or post sexually explicit images of themselves
- Take part in sexual activities via a webcam or smartphone
- Have sexual conversations by text or online.
Once this happens, the perpetrators may threaten to send images, video or copies of indecent conversations to the child or teenager’s friends and family. That way they get them to take part in other sexual activity.
The exchange of these images or videos may continue long after the initial sexual abuse has stopped.
How to talk to children about the risks of sexting – and what you can do to protect them
It may feel awkward, but it’s important to explain to children the risks of sexting, how to stay safe and remind them they can talk to you if something ever makes them feel scared or uncomfortable.
What is sexting?
Sexting is when someone shares sexual, naked or semi-naked images or videos of themselves or others, or sends sexually explicit messages.
They often describe these pictures as “dirties” “pic for pic” “trading nudes.”
Perpetrators can send them using any device that allows sharing media or messages. Sexting happens over the internet via laptops and PCs. They also send them via mobiles and smartphones.
Sexting can break the law. Creating or sharing explicit images of a child is illegal, even if the person doing it is a child. However, if a child or young person sexts, the police can choose to record it as a crime. They may not take formal action, as isn’t in the public interest to do so.
It is a crime for a child to:
- Take an explicit photo or video of themselves or a friend
- Share an explicit image or video of a child, even if it’s shared between children of the same age
- Possess, download or store an explicit image or video of a child, even if the child gave their permission for it to be created.
The authorities record the matter as a crime. But this will only appear as such if the young person involved re-offends or shows that they are a risk to the public.
Young people get involved in sexting because:
- To get attention and connect with new people on social media
- Joining in because they think that ‘everyone is doing it’
- Boosting their self-esteem
- Flirting with others and testing their sexual identity
- Exploring their sexual feelings
- They may find it difficult to say no if somebody asks them for an explicit image, especially if the person asking is persistent.
However, AAB believes that the reasons they do this is to win a boyfriend or girlfriend and because of peer pressure to be cool.
Sexually Exploitative Bullying
Grooming children destroys their childlife—forcing them to alienate from their peers and families. Together, we can fight that.
Child sexual exploitation has become linked with bullying in recent years because of widespread use of the internet. This type of sexual abuse involves someone who is abusing their power to place children in a compromising situation. This often begins with children receiving some form of gift, money or affection. However, it is in return for performing sexual activities or allowing others to do the same.
These are distinct from the normal boy meets girl type of situation in that the exploiters deliberately target young vulnerable people. They trick them into believing they’re in a proper relationship. Often drugs and alcohol are involved.
The authorities flagged up this type of conduct up after a highly publicised case of organised sexual abuse in England. It happened between 1997 and 2013 when five men of Pakistani heritage were found guilty of a series of sexual offences against girls as young as twelve.
Other high-profile cases include the Jimmy Savile case. This lifted the lid off the widespread nature of similar cases involving children as young as five. Why was the situation ignored? Reasons include the unwillingness to report members of ethnic minority communities for fear of being seen as racist. In the Savile case, it was the celebrity factor.
Because sexual exploitation of children by adults using grooming methods (i.e. relationship building for criminal reason) often involves the internet, the methods are like those employed in bullying. While the police investigate the more serious offences, others slip through. Therefore, as in cyberbullying, victims must rely on coping techniques similar to those used in countering cyberbullying.
Sexual Grooming Online
Grooming, like bullying is an abuse of power. It is when someone in a superior role builds a relationship with a child explicitly to gain their trust in order to take advantage of their innocence and abuse them sexually.
Groomers may be male or female. They could be any age.
Many children and young people don’t understand that someone has groomed them. Or is manipulating them with the intention of sexual activity.
How grooming online happens
Groomers use deceptive methods and sometimes over a long time to conceal their criminal intentions. They do this by:
- Lying about their age online, for example pretending to be someone they are not
- Giving the child attention and advice
- Using their online relationship to learn private gossip to control children in the future
Once they have established trust, groomers will seek to isolate the child from friends or family. They will then try to make the child feel dependent on them. They will use any means of power or control to make a child believe they have no choice but to do what they want. This can involve sexting, meeting up or passing private information. Groomers introduce the language of ‘secrets’ as a way of controlling and frightening the child.
Groomers can use social media sites, instant messaging apps, including teen dating apps, or online gaming platforms to connect with a young person or child.
It is easy for them to learn about their target via online profiles, where they can build a picture of the young person’s favourite films, bands and other interests. They use this to build up a relationship.
Because of the way the internet operates, it is relatively simple for groomers to hide their identity online. They will usually pretend to be a child themselves. They chat and become ‘friends’ with their child targets.
This form of abuse is on the rise. Very often groomers will send messages to hundreds of young people and wait for a response. Otherwise they try to connect with children who have publicly declared their vulnerability. They home in on children who have sexy usernames or use modern provocative banter. Their aim is to get that child to take part in some form of sexual activity. If this is on film, the perpetrator can threaten to circulate it and blackmail the victim.
Sexual grooming is increasing because children are often too ashamed of themselves to report it. They may feel guilty that they have let themselves and their parents down. Or they may still trust the groomer and believe they are in a real life relationship with either a boyfriend or a girlfriend.
What is Cyber stalking?
“Stalking someone on the net” is practically a figure of speech. We all spend so much time researching online. However, actually stalking is a terrifying and dangerous behaviour which is on the increase. Anyone can become a target and children are no exception.
Stalking has become a direct progression from cyberbullying, encouraging some people to become obsessed with tracking the movements of others. While mostly this is innocent and a normal part of modern life, stalking is also a tool of online sexual groomers and abusers.
The plight of children or teens who are being stalked or carrying out stalking concerns authorities. Parents, schools and police think they are too young to be victims. There has been very little research done on this age group, even though stalking activities are up by a third because of the internet.
They define stalking as repeated harassment over weeks or months.
We’ve made quite a splash with our campaigns. But with your help, we can continue to change social attitudes on bullying and abuse wherever it occurs.
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