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U.S. school peers sex harassment common

  |   Nov. 7, 2011 at 7:52 PM
WASHINGTON, Nov. 7 (UPI) -- Peer-to-peer sexual harassment -- considered a type of bullying -- is experienced by almost half of U.S. middle and high school students, a report found.

"Crossing the Line: Sexual Harassment at School" by the American Association of University Women, a non-profit organization, was based on a nationally representative survey of 1,965 students in grades 7 to 12 conducted in May and June.

Catherine Hill, director of research at the association and one of the authors of the report, said sexual harassment by definition involves sex and gender, and therefore warrants separate attention from bullying.

Forty-eight percent of the students said they experienced some form of sexual harassment in the 2010–2011 school year and 87 percent said it had a negative effect on them, the study said.

Verbal harassment -- unwelcome sexual comments, jokes, or gestures made up the bulk of the incidents, but physical harassment was far too common, the study said.

Thirty percent said they suffered sexual harassment by text, e-mail, Facebook or other electronic means, and many who were sexually harassed through cyberspace were also sexually harassed in person, the study said.

Fifty-six percent of girls said they were harassed versus 40 percent of the boys. Boys were most likely to identify being called gay as most troubling to them, while for girls being called a lesbian was also a common occurrence, particularly for female athletes, the study said.

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