The new AAUW report, Crossing the Line, is starting to hit the media, even though Nov. 15 is the official release date. Be prepared to take advantage of this locally with your media outreach. Bullying and harassment are vey much in the news these days and AAUW is once again leading the way with our report. In the meantime, the NY Times article below is more research on what our girls are up against in today’s world.
National Study Finds Widespread Sexual Harassment of Students in Grades 7 to 12
Published: November 7, 2011
Nearly half of 7th to 12th graders experienced sexual harassment in the last school year, according to a study scheduled for release on Monday, with 87 percent of those who have been harassed reporting negative effects such as absenteeism, poor sleep and stomachaches.
· Times Topic: Sexual Harassment
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.
Whatever the medium, more girls were victims: 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.
“I was called a whore because I have many friends that are boys,” one ninth-grade girl was quoted as saying. An eighth-grade boy, meanwhile, reported, “They spread rumors I was gay because I played on the basketball team.”
The study asked students to reflect on the 2010-11 school year in an attempt to capture the prevalence of sexual harassment, the effects it has on the harassed and the reasons the harassers engage in the behavior. It also questioned students about preventive measures. Coming amid increased attention to bullying and cyber-bullying, the report aimed to highlight the damaging effects of inappropriate sexual comments, online rumors or lurid Facebook posts.
“Bullying is getting a lot of attention,” said Holly Kearl, an author of the report and program manager of the university association’s Advocacy Fund. “We don’t want schools to forget about sexual harassment” and not talk about it, she said. Ms. Kearl said some schools that talk to students about sexual harassment and how to respond to it have been successful in reducing it. “We want to encourage schools to know what Title IX is,” she said, referring to the federal law that prohibits discrimination based on gender in schools, “to have a coordinator and to publicize it.”
The report documents many forms of harassment. The most common was unwelcome sexual comments, gestures or jokes, which was experienced by 46 percent of girls and 22 percent of boys. Separately, 13 percent of girls reported being touched in an unwelcome way, compared with 3 percent of boys; 3.5 percent of girls said they were forced to do something sexual, as did 0.2 percent of boys. About 18 percent of both boys and girls reported being called gay or lesbian in a negative way.
In the survey, students 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. For girls, the leading problem was having someone make “unwelcome sexual comments, jokes or gestures to or about you.”
Girls also reported more negative consequences: 37 percent said they did not want to go to school after being harassed, versus 25 percent of boys. Twenty-two percent of girls who were harassed said they had trouble sleeping, compared with 14 percent of boys; 37 percent of girls felt sick to their stomach, versus 21 percent of boys.
Those students who experienced both online and in-person harassment experienced the worst effects: 46 percent said they did not want to go to school, 44 percent felt sick to their stomachs and 43 percent found it hard to study.
Half of those who were harassed said they did nothing about it; 9 percent said they reported the incident to an adult at school; and 27 percent of students (32 percent of girls and 20 percent of boys) said they talked about it with a family member.
When asked 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 the most at-risk, students said.
“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.”