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Is Sexual Assault Considered Bullying?

If you have attended any of my presentations or consumed my writings, you likely know that I’m not a fan of the word “bullying”.  Today I read a news story that talked about sexual assault (specifically rape), sexual harassment, and bullying as it described the experience of a young boy. It is insane how this word (“bullying”) is being thrown around. Most people have no clue what they’re talking about.  The media knows that “bullying” is a buzz word and including it in their publications will gain attention.  Even well-intentioned reporters often have little to no education on the definition of bullying.  As a result, their reports incorrectly educate the pubic on the meaning of the word.

Bullying, put simply, is dominance behavior. Non-criminal behavior that causes subjective harm. It’s aimed at hurting someone’s feelings. It’s further defined as an imbalance of power, where someone gets pleasure inflicting pain, repeated over time.

Criminal behavior such as stealing, vandalism, destruction of property, and assault cause objective harm.  They harm a person’s body or property.  There’s no argument of whether or not these acts cause harm.  It’s plain and simple, not subjective to what a person thinks, like bullying.

Sexual assault, to be more specific, is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. This is ALWAYS criminal behavior that causes objective harm, as it’s aimed at hurting someone’s body.

Calling someone’s sexual assault or sexual harassment experience an act of “bullying” is ridiculous and significantly downplays and reduces the criminal act. It is so important that we use the correct language not only in the media but also when talking to our kids.  Parents, educators, and mental health professionals should abandon the word “bullying” and use clearer language to describe behavior.   You can learn more about this topic and how to stop bullying by watching my free video training

Jeff Veley is a bullying expert and media personality with a decade of working with youth, parents, educators, and mental health professionals.  Jeff’s message on bullying has reached over one million people.  He’s received the Golden Rule International Award, the World Civility International Award, and is recognized by the United Nations for effectiveness in conflict resolution.  In addition, he’s a certified trainer and facilitator of Safe Dates, an evidence-based Adolescent Dating Abuse Prevention Curriculum which covers courses on sexual assault and sexual harassment.  You can learn more about Jeff and his work at