Sexual Harassment Prevalent on College Campuses

Nearly two-thirds of college students in the US have experienced some form of sexual harassment, according to a new report from the American Association of University Women (AAUW). The report, Drawing the Line: Sexual Harassment on Campus analyzed the results of a spring 2005 survey of undergraduate students, and found that the majority had experienced verbal or physical sexual harassment, with nearly one-third experiencing a form of physical harassment. While both men and women students reported sexual harassment, women were more likely to feel negative repercussions to their self-confidence. LGBT students were both more likely to be the targets of sexual harassment and more likely to be embarrassed, afraid, or disappointed in their college experiences because of it.

The survey also asked if students had ever been harassers, with half of men and one-third of women admitting to sexually harassing someone else. The most common cause of this admitted harassment was because the harasser thought it was funny. Less than 10 percent of harassed students reported it in any way, although over half would like their college to offer an anonymous, web-based method to report such incidents. The report also highlighted the lack of Title IX coordinators at many colleges and universities, despite the fact that every college and university that receives federal funding is required to have a Title IX coordinator.

AAUW president Ruth Sweetser said in a statement that “A campus environment that permits inappropriate verbal and physical contact undermines the emotional, intellectual, and professional growth of millions of young adults. In such a setting young men and women fail to learn appropriate behaviors essential for success later in life.” As a result of these findings, AAUW has begun a program to work with selected schools across the country in a program called Building a Harassment-Free Campus.

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AAUW press release 1/24/06; Transcript of AAUW press conference 1/24/06; Washington Post 1/25/06

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