National Study Finds Widespread Sexual Harassment of Students in Grades 7 to 12

Marion Herbert's picture
Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Nearly half of 7th to 12th graders experienced sexual harassment in the last school year, according to a study, with 87 percent of those who have been harassed reporting negative effects such as absenteeism, poor sleep and stomachaches.

On its survey of a nationally representative group of 1,965 students, the American Association of University Women, a nonprofit research organization, defined harassment as “unwelcome sexual behavior that takes place in person or electronically.” 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.

“It’s pervasive, and almost a normal part of the school day,” said Catherine Hill, the director of research at the association and one of the authors of the report.

Over all, 48 percent of students surveyed said they were harassed during the 2010-11 school year. Forty-four percent of students said they were harassed “in person” — being subjected to unwelcome comments or jokes, inappropriate touching or sexual intimidation — and 30 percent reported online harassment, like receiving unwelcome comments, jokes or pictures through texts, e-mail, Facebook and other tools, or having sexual rumors, information or pictures spread about them.

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