Article

Sexual harassment among adolescents: most prevalent forms and gender differences

Virginia Sánchez Jiménez, Universidad de Sevilla; Noelia Muñoz Fernández, Universidad Loyola Andalucía
Project selected in the Social Research Call 2019 (LCF/PR/SR19/52540005)

Sexual harassment among adolescents is considered to be an international public health problem. This article presents the results of a study conducted with 1,026 adolescents regarding the prevalence of both face-to-face (traditional) and online (via the internet and social media networks) sexual harassment. It describes the rates of involvement in aggression (those who sexually harassed their peers at least once) and in victimisation (those who were on the receiving end of harassment) in the past two months. The data were compiled based on forty-five classes from seven secondary schools between December 2021 and February 2022. The results indicate that the prevalence of sexual harassment stands between 1.6% and 28.4%, although there are specific behaviours that practically reach 70%. Visual/verbal sexual harassment is the most frequent form of harassment, followed by online sexual harassment and, at a greater distance, physical harassment. Significant gender differences exist: girls tend to be victims of sexual harassment, while boys tend to be perpetrators.
Key points
  • 1
       Sexual comments, jokes and insults are the most frequent types of sexual harassment among the adolescent population. Nearly 7 out of every 10 adolescents have been the target of such aggressions, at least occasionally.
  • 2
       Hugging or touching with sexual intentions were the most frequent physical sexual harassment behaviours: 4 out of every 10 adolescents stated that they have suffered these types of aggressions.
  • 3
       Sexual requests via the internet, such as trying to talk about sex, or asking for an intimate photo, were the most prevalent online sexual aggressions. Nearly 50% of those who participated in the study have received such requests in cyberspace.
  • 4
       Two out of every 10 girls have been subjected to physical sexual harassment and nearly 3 out of every 10 have been harassed online. Among boys, the prevalence was somewhat lower: just over 1 boy out of every 10 has suffered physical sexual harassment and 2 out of every 10, online sexual harassment.
  • 5
       The rates of sexual harassment perpetrated by boys doubled that perpetrated by girls, both face-to-face and online.

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