Study: Sexual Harassment Runs Across 7-12 Grades

Basing on findings from a nationally representative survey held in May and June, 2011, this report presents the most all-embracing research to date on sexual harassment in grades 7-12 and reveals some sobering statistics about the prevalence of sexual harassment and the negative impact it has on students’ education.

The research showed that about half of 7-12 grades had faced sexual harassments in school. Photo: chris8800/ Flickr

The major national survey showed that about a half of students, studying in 7-12 classes have underwent sexual harassment in the last school year. Moreover, 87 percent of those who have been harassed reporting negative effects such as absenteeism, poor sleep and stomachaches.

According to a national research released Monday by the American Association of University Women, during the 2010-11 school year, 48 percent of students underwent some form of sexual harassment in person or electronically via texting, email and social media.

Thereby, 52 percent of girls said they had been harassed in person, and 36 percent online, compared with 35 percent of boys who were harassed in person and 24 percent online.

So, 1,002 girls and 963 boys from public and private schools nationwide were asked whether they had undergone any of various forms of sexual harassment. These included having someone make unwelcome sexual comments about them, being called gay or lesbian in an appropriate way, being touched in an unwelcome sexual way, being shown sexual pictures they didn’t want to see, and being the subject of unwelcome sexual rumors.

Over all, girls reported being harassed more than boys — 56 percent compared with 40 percent — though it was evenly divided during middle school. Boys were more likely to be the harassers, according to the study, and children from lower-income families reported more severe effects.

In fact, girls reported being harassed more than boys — 56 percent compared with 40 percent — though it was evenly divided during middle school. Boys were more likely to be the harassers, according to the study, and children from lower-income families reported more severe effects.

“It’s pervasive, and almost a normal part of the school day,” said Catherine Hill, the director of the studies.

The harassers often thought they were just making fun, but they forgot the possible consequences for their targets can be wrenching. Nearly a third of the victims said the harassment made them feel sick to their stomach, affected their study habits or total unwillingness to go to school at all.

As a result, half of the victims did nothing about it. Some talked to parents or friends, but only 9 percent reported the incident to a teacher, guidance counselor or other adult at school, the survey said.

“It’s reached a level where it’s almost a normal part of the school day,” said Catherine Hill. “It’s somewhat of a vicious cycle. The kids who are harassers often have been harassed themselves.”

In the research, interviewees were asked to identify what had the worst effect on them. For boys, it was being called gay — “Everyone was saying I was gay, and I felt the need to have to run away and hide,” a ninth-grader said. As for girls, the leading problem was having someone make “unwelcome sexual comments, jokes or gestures to or about you.”

The experts also found out what types of students were most at risk of harassment, students said “good-looking boys” were the safest, with pretty girls, ugly girls and feminine boys the likely targets. Girls whose bodies are most developed are said to be the most at-risk.

 “This is an issue that’s especially complex for girls, though it affects all students,” Ms. Hill said. “Boys are targets, and girls can be harassers.” [Via CBSNews and New York Times]

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