Half of Middle and High School Students Are Sexually Harassed

Brad M. Griffin | Nov 9, 2011

You might have seen the headline this week, as its been circulating heavily around social media conversations: National Study Finds Widespread Sexual Harassment of Students in Grades 7 to 12.

The article in the New York Times shares from a report by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) that found that half of the nearly 2,000 students in their study (48%) were sexually harassed at some point during the last school year. (See the full report from the AAUW). One-third of students reported electronic sexual harassment: by text, e-mail, Facebook, or other online means. This cyberbullying is often connected with in-person harassment.

Sadly, half of those who were harassed did nothing about it. Less than 10% reported anything to an adult at school, while a quarter of students reported sharing about incidents with friends or with family members. In fact, Its pervasive, and almost a normal part of the school day, noted Catherine Hill, one of the reports authors.

Following up from Mondays post on creating safe zones for kidsat school and at churchthis raises questions about what kinds of realities our safe zones need to address. When I was in high school and my first few years in youth ministry, sexual joking among students, but also from and by youth ministry leaders, was way too common. I think times have changed to some extent, but I have to wonder how much over-the-line harassment still gets promoted, overlooked, chuckled at, turn-the-other-way’ed in youth ministry even though we think we may have come a long way. In particular, I wonder about the role of our silence, which is essentially our approval.

As a parent, Im convinced that we need to have discussions about sexual harassment in all its forms with our kids. Real, honest discussions about hurtful words and acts that they witness or personally experienceor mightat school or in other contexts. We also need to talk about the ways their participation in harassing others cuts deeper than they may realize. Maybe you could even use the report to open up a conversation by asking what they think about the issue and how much its a reality in their school.

What else do you think is needed to respond to this issue, at school, in ministry, or at home?

Brad M. Griffin

Brad M. Griffin is the Senior Director of Content for the Fuller Youth Institute, where he develops research-based training for youth workers and parents. A speaker, writer, and volunteer youth pastor, Brad is the coauthor of over a dozen books, including 3 Big Questions That Change Every Teenager, Faith in an Anxious World, Growing Young, several Sticky Faith books, Every Parent’s Guide to Navigating Our Digital World, and Can I Ask That? Brad and his family live in Southern California, where he serves as Pastor of Youth and Family Ministries at Mountainside Communion.

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