During the 2010–11 school year, 48 percent of students in grades 7–12 experienced some form of sexual harassment in person or electronically via texting, e-mail, and social media, according to a major national survey released by the American Association of University Women.
Nearly a third of the victims said the harassment made them feel sick to their stomach, affected their study habits, or fueled reluctance to go to school at all.
“It’s reached a level where it’s almost
a normal part of the school day,” said one
of the report’s co-authors, AAUW director of research Catherine Hill. “It’s somewhat of a vicious cycle. The kids who are harassers often have been harassed themselves.”
The survey, conducted in May and June, asked 1,002 girls and 963 boys from public and private schools nationwide whether they had experienced any of various forms of sexual harassment. These included having someone make unwelcome sexual comments about them, being called gay or lesbian in a negative 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.
In all, 56 percent of the girls and 40 percent of the boys said they had experienced at least one incident of sexual harassment during the school year.
After being harassed, half of the targeted students did nothing about it. Of the rest, some talked to parents or friends, but only 9 percent reported the incident to a teacher, guidance counselor, or other adult at school, according to the survey.
The survey asked students for suggestions on how to reduce sexual harassment at their schools. More than half favored systematic punishments for harassers and said there should be a mechanism for reporting harassment anonymously.
The survey was conducted for AAUW by Knowledge Networks, and students answered the questions online, rather than to a person, to maximize the chances that they would answer sensitive questions candidly. Households were provided with equipment and Internet access if needed.
The AAUW said the margin of error for the full sample of the survey was plus or minus 2.2 percent, with a larger margin of error for subgroups. —AP