Curbing cyber sex bullies

WHAT can a 15-year-old girl do if her former boyfriend decides to show naked cyber images to her classmates?

Under the current Federal Government sexual harassment laws, not a lot.

New laws under consideration will revamp the 25-year-old Sex Discrimination Act and give anyone under 16 the right to launch a case of sexual harassment.

Deb Pearse, facilitator of Youth Linx and Street Cruise who works out of the Byron Youth Centre, said a change in sexual harassment laws might help, but people really needed to look at why it was happening in the first place.

“I know lots of kids who have been bullied through MySpace, and it can be vicious,” she said.

“Technology has helped bullying go underground.”

The issue of bullying won't be solved by new anti-harassment laws, but it will give young victims more legal options.

That is if they are not too frightened to speak out, Ms Pearse said.

“They are often too scared to tell. Or have felt nothing will be done,” she said.

The changes have been recommended by a Senate review and the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.

Younger students are often more vulnerable to sexual harassment by fellow students, the commission argued in its submission to the Government.

Ms Pearse's advice to young people being harassed is to talk to someone they trust: “Anyone you trust, take a risk and talk to them.”

“New laws will help young people more effectively if there's also a support system in place to assist young people in reporting harassment,” she said.

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