Defining 'Sexual Violence'

Defining 'Sexual Violence'

Deja vu, I know, but there's a new study claiming that 27 percent of girls and 25 percent of boys are victims of "sexual violence" in middle school.

The problem is that the study defined "sexual violence" to include not only violence of a sexual nature, but also verbal harassment, rumor-spreading, and homophobic name calling. These things are worth studying and fighting. They are not what people think when they read the term "sexual violence" in a headline.

That said, educators and policymakers might find the results useful:

The most frequent experience was physical sexual violence, where 21.6% of students that experienced sexual harassment indicated being physically touched when they did not want to be. Some responses included "someone slapped my butt", "someone rubbed against me sexually", "[someone] forced me to kiss them", etc. Rumor spreading (18.9%), verbal sexual commentary (18.2%), and homophobic name-calling (17.9%), were the other themes that were the most common. Some responses coded as rumor spreading included "when someone wrote on the bathroom stall [that] I was a skank", "someone said I 'did it' with a guy [when] I didn't', or "people would sometimes write inappropriate messages on the chalkboard about me." Responses identified as verbal sexual commentary included "someone asked me if they could touch my breast" or "someone asked me to bend over to look at my 'parts'." Furthermore, responses indicating homophobic name-calling involve phrases like "people say that I am gay because I have lots of friends that are girls", "people tell me I am gay because my mom is", "people make fun [and say] that I'm going out with my best friend just because they know I'm bi[sexual]", "people call me lesbian just because I hang out with all girls."

Robert VerBruggen is editor of RealClearPolicy. Twitter: @RAVerBruggen

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