While it is established that 70% of females have had at least one experience of sexual violence from age fourteen through college years, recent research findings alert us to the dangers that lurk in the hallways of our middle schools.
Earlier this week, a study conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois found that almost one in five students in middle school have experienced physical sexual violence, such as being inappropriately touched against their will, while at school.
18-19% students reported being the target of sexual rumors, sexual commentary and homophobic name-calling. Not so surprisingly, over 8% of the victims denied being sexually harassed, or normalized the behaviors as simply peers joking around with them or seeking attention. They often downplayed harassment by saying that the incidents were “not that bad".
Dr. Espelage expressed serious concern about student responses, and stated, “This dismissive attitude seems to be indicative of a broader societal force to normalize or legitimize sexually violent acts.” She further emphasized that dismissing sexual violence or harassment as a trivial aspect of students’ lives perpetuates a cycle of sexual aggression.