How Non-Physical Harassment Takes The Toll on Boys and Girls Differently?

2017 has been a challenging year.

The battle for equality between sexes and race continues, while the media is alight with stories of sexual harassment or non physical harrasment. With Harvey Weinstein, Ed Westwick and Kevin Spacey all facing allegations of everything from mild sexual harassment to rape, more and more people are coming forward to tell their stories.

But when it comes to sexual harassment, there are some things that we don’t consider.

Many believe that sexual harassment only happens to women, but new studies have shown that this isn’t the case – it’s just that women are more affected by it. Three thousand students in Norway took part in a study where they were asked about non-physical sexual harassment that they experienced. It was found that many of the students reported that they’d been sexually harassed, but crucially, the girls in the study were more psychologically damaged by it.

The study is interesting in particular because often, sexual harassment reports are made by women. But as Anthony Rapp’s allegations against Kevin Spacey have proved, men can be affected too, but perhaps don’t admit to it very often. Like the boys in the study, he was still in high school when the alleged incident occurred, which shows that men can be just as vulnerable to this kind of attacks. However, the research takes the issue further. It found that women reported feeling symptoms of depression about the non-physical sexual harassment. It shows that despite both genders experiencing non-physical sexual harassment, in many cases the experience hurts women more.

The study focused on the experience the students had with one another. That meant the people they were experiencing harassment from were of the same age. This included troubles online, such as unwanted sexual images being sent or spread around. It also included verbal attacks using homophobic slurs, sexual references or derogatory comments about body image.

Of course, there is a significant difference between verbal attacks and physical, but studies such as this one prove that non-physical attacks can still be very upsetting. 62% of the boys and girls in the study reported non-physical sexual harassment, which shows that men are experiencing these attacks just as often. The girls involved only reported more cases of ‘unpleasant sexual gazes, ’ but the rest of the study was equal in reports.

Other factors were taken into account to see if they affected a person’s perception of sexual harassment, such as their sexuality and whether their parents were unemployed or divorced. However, the results conclusively found that the primary factor at play was gender. Girls appeared to suffer low scores when it came to rating self-esteem and symptoms of depression.

The researchers decided that women deal with stress differently, but this isn’t an absolute fact. It was also suggested that girls with low self-esteem might feel more targeted by sexual harassment than others, meaning they see a link between the sexual harassment and the depressive symptoms. This is entirely possible since more women report feelings of depression anyway. But all these different theories mean its harder to determine why there’s a difference in the way men and women experience non-physical sexual harassment – it’s just apparent that women are more affected, period.

Hayley Anderton

Hayley Anderton is a Creative Writing graduate from Liverpool. She’s a freelance writer and the self-published novelist of the LGBT YA book, Double Bluff. She doesn’t go anywhere without a notepad and has been writing ever since she can remember. Her other interests include baking, talking about politics and feminism, and snuggling up with her cat. She has dreams of traveling the world with her best friends, and of being a well-known author someday.

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