Guide on prevention and response to sexual bullying to assist teachers | Stop Pesten NU



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Guide on prevention and response to sexual bullying to assist teachers

The Anti-Bullying Alliance has developed this guide on prevention and response to sexual bullying to assist teachers and other professionals as they safeguard, educate and support children in their care.

WHAT IS SEXUAL BULLYING? The Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA) defines bullying as:

“the repetitive, intentional hurting of one person or group by another person or group, where the relationship involves an imbalance of power.”
It can happen face-to-face or online.

It is written to apply to the school environment but many of the principles are relevant to other settings where adults support children and young people. It draws on law and government guidance; best practice from organisations that specialise in children’s safety and/or sexual harms; and research literature and consultation with children, including disabled children and those with special educational needs (SEN). It outlines the specific issues that professionals should be aware of in relation to sexual bullying and also suggests actions that staff can take to safeguard, educate and protect all students.

The views of children and young people involved in the consultation, and associated quotations, are usedthroughout.

We encourage you to use this guide to update your anti-bullying policy and procedures and educate all staff members on how to keep children safe. With thanks to all the young people involved in the consultations and to Kidscape for helping us develop the guidance.


  • Bullying has a significant effect on children and young people’s mental health, emotional wellbeing, and identity – and schools have a legal duty1 to tackle it.
  • Peer on peer abuse is a safeguarding issue. All staff should be aware that children can abuse other children and be clear on school policy and procedures (Keeping Children Safe in Education, Sep 2020)2.
  • Sexual bullying can impact all children – but schools should be aware that girls and disabled children and those with SEN are at particular risk of sexual abuse. Girlguiding’s 2017 Girls’ Attitudes Survey4 found 64% of girls aged 13 - 21 had experienced sexual harassment in school in the past year, a rise of 5% since 2014. Research from the Contextual Safeguarding Network into harmful sexual behaviour in 16 schools throughout England identified the most predominant behaviours as sexual/sexist name-calling (73% of children reported this occurring in their school), rumours about students’ sexual activity (55%); sexual harassment (36%); sexual images/videos of students shared without consent (30%); and unwanted touching (22%).
  • All children need support to understand about puberty, healthy sexual development and healthy relationships; to recognise harmful sexual behaviour; to learn about consent, and to feel confident that their school is a safe environment where they can confidently share any concerns.
  • Schools have a legal duty6 to create an environment where sexism is not tolerated; where personal space of students and staff is respected; where sexist language and comments are challenged; and where students and staff feel empowered to say no to any unwanted touch.
  1. The Education and Inspections Act 2006 provides that maintained schools must have measures to encourage good behaviour and prevent all forms of bullying amongst pupils.
  2. Keeping Children Safe in Education, DfE, updated 2020 government/publications/keeping-children-safe-in-education--2
  3. link not found
  4. Girlguiding (2017), Girls’ Attitudes Survey, globalassets/docs-and-resources/research-and-campaigns/girls-attitudes- survey-2017.pdf
  5. Contextual Safeguarding Network, Beyond Referrals (2020)
  6. Under the Equality Act 2010 schools as public bodies must eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct prohibited by the act.

Education does not create more harassment. It puts a name on the inappropriate behaviour that already exists. Education does not create more problems for educators. It allows existing problems to be identified and solved at the local level.1

Download the guide for school staff and other professionals SEXUAL BULLYING: DEVELOPING EFFECTIVE ANTI-BULLYING PRACTICE 

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