As the culture shifts to acknowledge the epidemic of sexual harassment and assault taking place on university campuses, which in turn has bled into harassment in the workplace, research has expanded to show that increasingly-younger children are reporting being sexually harassed by their peers. A study from Michigan State University has revealed that roughly one in four children between ages of 12 and 19 reported being sexually harassed by friends and peers.
Much of the harassment is taking place online, with a stream of sexual jokes, sexual comments and sexting over messenger apps making the children feel uncomfortable and pressured.
"Beyond verbal and written harassment, kids are increasingly becoming the target of sexual assault."
"For the person who is being targeted, though, it doesn't make much difference if something is called bullying or harassment," a writer from TeensHealth notes. "This kind of behavior is upsetting no matter what it's called. Like anyone who's being bullied, people who are sexually harassed can feel threatened and scared and experience a great deal of emotional stress."
Worse, beyond verbal and written harassment, kids are increasingly becoming the target of sexual assault — not by adults and teachers, but from members of their own peer group. According to a 2014 study by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, nearly 21 percent of middle school students reported that they experienced unwanted physical touching on school grounds. Sexual violence has been reported as taking place in school bathrooms, hallways and stairwells, cars parked on school property, as well as during overnight field trips and at school dances and athletic events.
"We should not have blinders on about how early sexual violence can take place," says Catherine Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights at the U.S. Education Department. "It has its own tinge of ugliness that is its own beast that we need to address."
Roughly four percent of high school aged boys and 10 percent of girls report having felt pressured into having sexual intercourse against their wishes. In 2015 alone, The Education Department received 65 civil rights complaints related to K-12 school districts' handling of sexual violence — three times the number the agency had received in 2014. Schools are handling the accusations as best they can, but many feel that the proper guidance and training isn't in place for school administrators to be able to protect children.
"Colleges are now really starting to feel enough pressure that they know they have obligations," says sexual assault lawyer Cari Simon. "In the K-12 cases, I have seen a lot of complete incompetence, a complete lack of even knowing they have responsibilities."
The Meyers Law Firm is on the side of victims of sexual harassment at work and elsewhere. Contact us today if you feel you have been singled out for unfair treatment.