Black flag

According to the Flag System black (very seriously unacceptable) behaviour applies if (1) there is either clearly no consent on the part of both involved or (2) if the sexual contact is forced with threats, aggression or violence or if (3) there is great inequality between the two parties. Also if the behaviour (4) is completely out of kilter with what is usual at this age, (5) is inappropriate for the context, or (6) results in severe physical, emotional or psychological harm for the child or young person him/herself, we talk about black behaviour.

Fig 4: A 14-year-old boy tries to force a 14-year-old girl to suck him off. He threatens her with a knife.
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A 14-year-old boy tries to force a 14-year-old girl to suck him off. He threatens her with a knife.

In situations of sexual abuse it often happens that one party forces him/herself on the other party. This might be done verbally or involve threats as in this situation with a knife. For some young people the use of force ceases after one attempt. Sometimes young people overstep the mark under the influence of strong erotic stimuli, which they don’t know how to control. Or they get carried away by a group and get extremely upset by the incident. In rarer instances abuse becomes a habit. The activities become a ‘sexual project’ that the young person carefully prepares and from which he/she derives great enjoyment.

Let’s now assess the behaviour of the boy:

  • Consent: - OK. There is no mutual consent in this situation.
  • Voluntary engagement: - OK. The boy is coercing the girl.
  • Equality: - OK. The boy has a position of power, he is armed with a knife.
  • Appropriate for age/development: - OK. Forcing someone to have sex using violence is not okay for a person of any age.
  • Appropriate within the context: N/A
  • Self-respect: - OK. The boy may inflict harm on himself as a result: his reputation is thus damaged and he risks receiving a punishment.


  1. Towards the boy: ‘I heard that you wanted to force a girl to have sex. How do you think that this might feel for that girl? How do you yourself feel about it? I am worried that you are going to get into trouble as a result. It’s okay that you have an interest in sex, but forcing someone with violence is absolutely not okay.  Can we agree that you apologise? You will also receive an appropriate punishment and your parents will have to be informed. It’s also possible that the girl may lodge a complaint against you.’
  2. Towards the girl: ‘I heard that (name of the boy) wanted to force you to have sex. How do you feel about that? We are taking this incident very seriously. He will receive an appropriate punishment. We will see to it that this doesn’t happen again. And for you we will organise the help you need.’
  3. Towards the teachers or supporting adults: Boys of this age normally know that they are not allowed to force anyone into sexual acts. Forbid the behaviour, take action, draw up a report and make a referral.
  4. Policy: A situation such as this can be a crisis for an organisation. It’s important that you have a protocol and that every step is carefully considered. See the support tree about this. The available support also plays a role in this.