Sexual Harassment Pervasive in Grades 7-12

The American Association of University Women released survey results revealing that 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, email and social media.  The survey asked 1,002 girls and 963 boys from public and private schools nationwide whether they had experienced any of various forms of sexual harassment including unwelcome sexual comments, 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.  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. Reasons for not reporting incidents included doubts it would have any impact, fear of making the situation worse, and concerns about the staff member's reaction. "Too often, the more comfortable term bullying is used to describe sexual harassment, obscuring the role of gender and sex in these incidents.  Schools are likely to promote bullying prevention while ignoring or downplaying sexual harassment."  Students made suggestions on how to reduce sexual harassment at their schools with half favoring systematic punishments for harassers and a mechanism for reporting harassment anonymously. AAUW recommended that all schools  create a sexual-harassment policy and make sure it is publicized and enforced.   AAUW also recommended that schools ensure that students are educated about what their rights are under Title IX, with special attention paid to encouraging girls to respond assertively to harassment since they are targeted more often than boys.  American Association of University Women (2011) Crossing the Line:  Sexual Harassment at School.

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