BHR 8- middle school-day4-sexual harassment

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Building Healthy Relationships – Middle School Curriculum

Program 4


This program is designed for students age 12-14. This interactive session provides students with definitions of sexual harassment and aims to prevent harassing behavior among students. Students will explore and analyze the elements of sexual harassment and the hostile environment it creates. In addition, students brainstorm appropriate responses to a sexual harasser and sexual harassment scenarios. As a result of this program students will:

  1. Learn about and identify local resources for sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape, and domestic violence. Learn definitions and consequences of sexual harassment.

  2. Distinguish flirting behaviors from harassing behaviors.

  3. Identify ways a bystander or a victim can confront a sexual harasser and address an experience of sexual harassment.

  4. Learn that sexual harassment is never the victim’s fault.

    Presenter Preparation:

  1. Five large sheets of paper, tape, and markers for gallery walk

  2. Questions and Answers Plus Stories You Should Know About Sexual Harassment” hand-outs

  3. Blank papers for anonymous questions

  4. Pencils/pens

Upon arrival:

  1. Arrange seating (if possible) to facilitate discussion. All students should be able to see the presenter (e.g. semi-circle).

  2. Write on the board:

Middle Way House

(812) 336-0846 24/7 crisis line


  1. Write headings on board or hang five large sheets of paper for the gallery walk. The five headings are: Flirting Behavior, Hurting Behavior, What is a hostile environment? How does sexual harassment affect a person? How can you help a friend who has been sexually harassed?



  • Introduce yourself personally. Explain briefly what your role is at the MWH/Rise.

  • If an OSA is available they should introduce themselves, and explain their role. Explain that some of the information we will discuss can be upsetting, and anyone should feel free to step out if uncomfortable. The OSA will follow anyone out the classroom in case they want to talk. OSAs should assure confidentiality.


  • Ask by show of hands how may students have heard of the Middle Way House. Ask those who raised their hands to share what they know.

  • Explain that MWH is a non-profit organization committed to fighting gender violence. The Middle Way House encompasses a number of services:

  • An emergency shelter for women and children who need a safe place to stay because of violence at home.

  • A rape crisis center with trained advocates that meet people that have experienced sexual assault at the hospital and on scene (if the perpetrator has been arrested). The advocates also are available for phone support. The advocates are available 24/7. This service is available to all genders.

  • A crisis line available 24/7 for people to receive support, ask questions, receive resources regarding relationships, domestic violence and sexual assault. Indicate the number on the board and explain the free, anonymous, confidential concepts. This service is available to all genders.

  • Rise transitional housing. For women and children that have experience domestic violence. It is a 28 unit building where families can reside for up to two years.

  • Free legal consultation e.g. help filing for protective orders or divorce. Legal advocates also accompany survivors to court.

  • Education and prevention programs like the one we are presenting today.


  • Ground Rules

Ask the class what kind of ground rules they would like to have for our discussion. We want it to be a safe place for people to voice their opinions and learn from each other.

If they have not said it already, add:

  • Agree to disagree.

We may have strong opinions, and it is ok for people to disagree.

  • Respect.

  • Confidentiality.

What is said in the room stays in the room

  • Why are we here?

We are here today to talk about sexual harassment. We are not here to say if you should be in romantic relationships or having sex. We are here to provide information and have a discussion.

Some statistics on sexual harassment:

  • A national study of preteens and teens in public schools showed that about four-fifths (80%) of females and three-fifths (60%) of males experienced sexual harassment while in school (University of Florida, 2007).

  • 35% of high school students reported that they experienced sexual harassment in their part-time work. Of the 35% who were sexually harassed, 63% were girls and 37% were boys5. In 19% of cases, perpetrators were supervisors, and 61% of the time, harassment came from (Dewey, 2002).

  • A Girl Scout Research Institute study found that 30% of teenage girls who used the internet (a majority who used the internet daily) had been sexually harassed while they were in a chat room (Fineran, 2002).

2. sexual harassment—definition and examples

Ask students: What is sexual harassment?

Key ideas should include: Unwanted and unwelcome sexual comments, gestures, written materials, rumors, graffiti, e-mail or instant messaging, and name calling about somebody’s sexuality.

Once students have compiled a working definition, ask students to supply examples of sexual harassment, both in a school and work place environment. Ask for examples of sexual harassment that occur outside of school and work as well.

Explain: Sexual harassment is a form of sexual violence that happens to both men and women. In the last few decades, attention has been given to sexual harassment in an effort to prevent further harassment and inform survivors of their rights.

3. gallery walk

Hang gallery walk posters in classroom. Each sheet has a different heading:

Flirting Behavior, Hurting Behavior, What is a hostile environment? How does sexual harassment affect a person? How can you help a friend who has been sexually harassed?

Break students up into groups of four or five. Student groups will rotate around the room, adding their thoughts to each poster.

Explain that the gallery walk is a way to see everyone in the group’s thoughts and ideas on different aspects of sexual harassment.

Each group will make their way to the five pieces of paper with different concepts written on the top. Please answer the question or add to the statement. There are no “right” answers.

Please do no mark out any answers made by other people, even if you do not agree with them. If previous groups have written something you do agree with, place a check mark next to that item.

This activity will help us to gain a clearer perspective of sexual harassment.

This should take 5-10 minutes, depending upon the size of the group. It is important to allow students maximum autonomy while they do this. If students are stuck, ask them open-ended questions.

Open Ended Question Suggestions:

Flirting Behavior

What does flirting look like?

How does flirting feel?

How do people flirt with each other?

Hurting Behavior

What does hurting look like?

What are examples of hurting behaviors you have seen at school or at work?

What is the difference between flirting and hurting?

What is a hostile environment?

What does the word hostile mean?

How would somebody act if they were in a hostile environment?

How does sexual harassment affect a person?

How does it feel to be sexually harassed?

How would a person act if they had been sexually harassed?

How can you help a friend who has been sexually harassed?

How should a person who has been sexually harassed be treated?

How should a person who has sexually harassed someone be treated?

What are ways bystanders can intervene?

4. process gallery walk and discuss sexual harassment

Use each piece of paper to address different aspects of sexual harassment.

Starting with “Flirting Behavior”, go through each sheet of the student’s writing.

Flirting Behavior

Flirting is an activity that happens between two or more people and is a wanted behavior. Flirting is a natural activity. Not everyone wants to flirt all the time. Flirting does not need to be an expected behavior. Flirting doesn’t mean that a person wants to have sex. Flirting can happen between males and females, females and females, and males and males.

Characteristics of flirting behaviors:

    • Feel good

    • Are complimentary

    • Are wanted

    • Are based on equality

Hurting Behavior

Characteristics of hurting behaviors:

    • Feel bad

    • Are degrading

    • Are unwanted

    • Are power based

    • Create feelings of powerlessness or lack or control for recipient

    • Are one sided

Ask: How can flirting behaviors turn into hurting behaviors?

Explain: If flirting behaviors are not well received and they are not stopped they become sexual harassment.

Ask: How can you tell if you are making someone uncomfortable? If you’re not sure if your comments are appreciated, what can you do to find out?

Explain: People give verbal and non-verbal cues when they are uncomfortable. They may blush, walk away, or ask you to stop. You can also ask someone directly if you are making him or her uncomfortable and if they would like you to stop. If you still are unsure, drop it! Flirting is fun. Sexual harassment is not.

Reframe hurting behaviors as sexual harassment. Define sexual harassment as unwanted, hurting behavior.

Consensual interactions between individuals are important. Sexual harassment begins when you know you are making someone else uncomfortable.

What is a hostile environment?

Ask: How can sexual harassment create a hostile environment? How does a hostile environment affect:

      1. The person being harassed, his or her ability to perform at school, to perform at work?

      2. Others at school or work?

      3. The harasser?

Explain: A hostile environment is a place in which a person does not feel comfortable. It is an unsafe place for not only the person being harassed, but also for others who witness the harassment.

How does sexual harassment affect a person?

Explain: Sexual harassment can be a very traumatic and hard event in someone’s life. Effects of sexual harassment are both short term and long term. For the victim these include low self esteem, fewer friends, depression, physical health problems, and absence from school leading to lower grades, nightmares, embarrassment, and fear of going to school or work.

Perpetrators of sexual harassment also suffer from negative consequences. These include loss of friends, loss of popularity, and criminal or legal problems. Sexual harassment is a serious felony crime that can result in prison time, a fee or settlement paid to the victim, expulsion from school, and loss of a job.

How can you help a friend who has been sexually harassed?

Reaching out to the person who was sexually harassed can help end sexual harassment. Support them by asking how they are and giving them a chance to talk. Let them know that it’s not their fault! Healing begins by talking about it.

Tell students: If you know someone who is or has been sexually harassed, the two most important things you can tell her or him are “It’s not your fault” and “I believe you.”

Ask students: Why do you think this is such an important thing to say? Explain: A person who is being or has been sexually harassed may have been told that the harassment was her or his own fault by her or his harasser. She or he may have heard this so often that she or he has come to believe this is true. Further, he or she may have told someone in the past and not been believed or may just be afraid that she or he won’t be believed. This belief of personal fault or fear of not being believed might be a barrier to seeking help.

Let students know that the best way to deal with sexual harassment is to address it. Bystanders can make a difference.

Ask students how they could make a difference if someone they know was being sexually harassed. Discuss what is important to remember when being a bystander: staying safe, feeling comfortable, and weighing the pros and cons. Letting a sexual harasser know that what they are doing isn’t cool or popular helps end sexual harassment. If you feel comfortable, ask the harasser to stop. No one deserves to be sexually harassed!

Inform students that everyone has the right to be safe at school and at work. This is the time to tell students that sexual harassment is never the victim’s fault! No one asks to be sexually harassed.

Reporting incidents of sexual harassment to a trusted teacher, counselor, or school official helps stop sexual harassment.


Pass out blank pieces of paper. Ask students to write a question or comment on the piece of paper. Instruct students to NOT write their names on the piece of paper. Be sure everyone turns in a piece of paper even if they do not have a question to ensure the questions remain anonymous. Answer the questions in class. If you don’t have enough time, tell them you will send answers to the school.

3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Can you send me a handout titled “Questions and Answers Plus Stories You Should Know About Sexual Harassment”?

All the lessons are excellent, but I’d like to have all the materials. Also, do you do any pre/post testing on the students? If so, I’d like a copy of that as well.

Thanks for all you do with middles and high school teens.

Comment by Cindy

Hello, I work for a domestic violence agency in South Florida. My work is primarily with kids and teens and I really enjoyed this lesson. I would also like if you could send me the handout, “Questions and Answers…”
Thank you so much.

Comment by katharine

i do not have the q&a handout. there is not really a handout for that, i don’t remember why that was written in the curriculum. i would have the students come up with different stories about sexual harassment that they have witnessed in their lives ( can be someone yelling at you from a car, or making homophobic remarks in school, etc), and break down why it is or isn’t sexual harassment to clarify the difference between flirting and wanted behavior VS unwanted stuff that makes you uncomfortable.

Comment by beyondmeresurvival

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