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The Sexual Harassment of Girls and Sexual Minorites In Our Schools

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

Just when I thought we, at Mental Help Net, had done a good job of writing and commenting about the issue of bullying, new and troubling information was revealed that should remind all of us that this is a very complex topic. What I am referring to are the results of a study just published in a journal called Sex Roles (December 10, 20-07) and the researchers are J.E. Gruber and S. Fineran.

The study compared bullying and sexual harassment among a large number of Middle and High School students. Among the 522 students studied 52% had been bullied and 35% had been sexually harassed. One third had been subjected to both behaviors.

Girls were sexually harassed as often as boys but gay, lesbian and bisexual students were submitted to greater levels of both bullying and sexual harassment.

Gruber and Fineran also found that both bullying and sexual harassment have negative effects on youngsters. However, the point out that sexual harassment causes even more harm than bullying. Allow me to add that this: in now way are they implying that bullying is not serious and harmful. It most certainly is. What is so troubling about these findings is that, given the damage that bullying causes it is dismaying to learn that sexual harassment has even more serious consequences for the victims.

Girls and sexual minorities were found to suffer most from harassment. Specifically, the negative effects were found to be in lower self esteem, poorer mental and physical health and more symptoms of trauma.

In addition, both authors point out that sexual harassment should not be placed in the same category as bullying and the schools are making the mistake of doing just that. Rather, schools need to view harassment very different from bullying and, consequently, treat it differently.

When you were growing up were you subjected to sexual harassment? Everyone is invited to join in the discussion of this serious issue. 

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