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All forms of sexual harassment can cause psychological harm

Today we share research findings that people from across countries and cultures can relate to and understand. This clearly shows the need for a global effort against sexual harassment.

Even the least severe forms of sexual harassment can have serious consequences for high school students who are targeted. Girls struggle the most.

“Being exposed to non-physical sexual harassment can negatively affect symptoms of anxiety, depression, negative body image and low self-esteem,” say Associate Professor Mons Bendixen and Professor Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair at NTNU’s Department of Psychology. This applies to derogatory sexual remarks about appearance, behaviour and sexual orientation, unwanted sexual attention, being subject to rumouring, and being shown sexually oriented images, and the like.

The researchers posed questions about sexual harassment experienced in the previous year and received responses from almost 3,000 high school students in two separate studies. The responses paint a clear picture.

This is not exclusively something boys do against girls. It’s just as common for boys to harass boys in these ways. Girls and boys are equally exposed to unpleasant or offensive non-physical sexual harassment. About 62 per cent of both sexes report that they have experienced this in the past year.

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