Introduction: The importance and benefits of open discussion between teachers and pupils on the subject of child sexual abuse and harassment have been widely acknowledged, yet little research has focused on the importance of how these discussions are conducted. In the current study, we examined different types of communication via the use of three types of mediation (restrictive, negative active, and positive active) regarding child sexual abuse and harassment from the perspectives of both middle-school and high-school pupils and their homeroom teachers. We sought to explore which of the three types of mediation styles would be most constructive in discussions between pupils and their teachers, with the goal of identifying the most beneficial mediation to be recommended for use in school policies. Methods: The study comprised 756 Israeli pupils (341 boys and 415 girls), aged 11–18 years, and their homeroom teachers (n = 66). Results: Teachers reported significantly higher levels of communicating with pupils about child sexual abuse and harassment than pupils perceived teachers communicating with them about these issues. From the pupils’ perspectives, we found no differences in how the three types of mediation style affected them. The more pupils perceived better quality of discussion and higher support from their teachers regarding child sexual abuse and harassment, the more they perceived their teachers communicating with them about these issues (via any of the three strategies – restrictive, active negative, and active positive). A greater sense of acceptance from teachers was related to pupils perceiving the discussions about child sexual abuse and harassment as being communicated by teachers in a more active way (both positive and negative). Finally, in the sample of pupils, boys perceived teachers as discussing child sexual abuse and harassment in a more restrictive way than did girls. Conclusions: Findings from the current study are encouraging as we found that any type of discussion between teachers and pupils in relation to child sexual abuse/harassment would be beneficial to pupils, with such discussions predicting pupils’ feeling of being supported and accepted. Namely, it is less important how teachers communicate about this topic than that they simply hold these conversations with their pupils at all. Policy Implications: Sex education programs must focus on teacher-pupil discussions in relation to child sexual abuse and harassment.
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- Child sexual abuse
- Sexual harassment
- Teacher-pupil communication