Chapter Summary and Learning Objectives
- Describe the definition and scope of peer sexual harassment, sexual assault, and teen dating violence, including problems inherent in measuring this form of abuse.
- Identify the various risk factors associated with peer sexual harassment, sexual assault, and teen dating violence.
- Summarize the consequences of peer sexual harassment, sexual assault, and teen dating violence.
- Discuss the various intervention and prevention efforts that focus on peer sexual harassment, sexual assault, and teen dating violence, including evidence of their effectiveness.
Adolescence and emerging adulthood is a transitional stage in the life course when young people assert greater autonomy, become more independent and autonomous, make more decisions for themselves, develop intimate relationships with opposite-sex or same-sex peers, and become sexually active. The research we reviewed in this chapter shows, however, that this is also a developmental stage when peer sexual and gender harassment, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking are not uncommon.
We defined sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature; it includes gender harassment, which refers to being called gay or lesbian in a malicious way. Sexual assault encompasses various forms of sexual contact without a person’s consent or when they are unable to consent. The most severe form of sexual assault is rape, or nonconsensual
attempted or completed penetration. Finally, we defined teen dating violence as physical, psychological, or sexual violence, including stalking, which involves a patternof unwanted, harassing, or threatening tactics that generate fear in a victim. Estimates of these forms of violence vary widely mostly due to samples surveyed, definitions used, the way questions were worded, and the time period examined. What is clear, however, is that a significant number of adolescents and young adults are affected by these forms of violence each year.
These forms of adolescent violence are important to study, not only because they represent a violation of human rights, but because such violence is associated with a number of negative physical and psychological consequences. There are significant physical impacts on victims, particularly associated with rape and dating violence, ranging from scratches and bruises to broken bones and head and spinal cord injuries. Rape victims also suffer from various gynecological problems (e.g., sexually transmitted infections) as well as headaches, gastrointestinal disorders, and insomnia and disordered sleep. Adolescent violence can also be associated with psychological damage including depression, lowered self-esteem, lowered self-confidence, social withdrawal, anxiety, suicidal ideation and attempts, loss of appetite, sleep disturbances, and increased use of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs. More severe outcomes include PTSD and completed suicide.
Although girls and boys may be perpetrators and victims of these behaviors, girls are at greater risk of victimization and boys are at greater risk of perpetration. We discussed various risk and protective factors to better understand adolescent victimization and perpetration experiences. Although specific risk factors vary depending on the type of adolescent violence, there are some commonalities such as the adherence to norms of hegemonic masculinity, witnessing parental IPV, having a history of child maltreatment, and LGBTQ identity.
Identifying risk factors is important in guiding the development and implementation of prevention and intervention programs to improve responses to victims and perpetrators and to reduce the incidence of these problem behaviors. Importantly, research shows that effective prevention programs must do more than simply raise awareness. The programs that have been found to be most successful are peer-led, emphasize gender egalitarian attitudes and values, teach nonviolent problem-solving skills as well as strategies for intervening (e.g., active bystanding) in potentially harmful incidents, and provide opportunities for practicing and, therefore, reinforcing these values, attitudes, skills, and strategies.