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Both verbal and physical sexual harassment cause lasting damage

Sexual harassment has been leading the news as of late, with numerous claims being made against political figures and the Hollywood power players.

It’s important to note that no matter the kind of harassment, physical or verbal, it is still abuse and can have a lasting, damaging effect on the victims.

A new study conducted by researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology set out to distinguish between physical and nonphysical sexual harassment and show that non-physical abuse can be also detrimental to health and well-being.

“Being exposed to non-physical sexual harassment can negatively affect symptoms of anxiety, depression, negative body image and low self-esteem,” said Mons Bendixen and Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair, the co-authors of the study.

The researchers focused their study on teens and found that harassment was not exclusively aimed at girls, boys were also just as likely to be targeted with verbal abuse.

The researchers conducted two different studies asking high school students about their experience with sexual harassment in the previous year. The researchers had responses from nearly 3,000 students, and both studies had similar results.

The researchers felt it was important to distinguish between different forms of harassment so they divided the types of harassment into two different groups, physically coercive behavior, and non-physical harassment.

“As far as we know, this is the first study that has distinguished between these two forms and specifically looked at the effects of non-physical sexual harassment,” said Bendixen.

The team conducted two different studies surveying high school students on their experiences with sexual harassment. Because some slurs and slang terms might not be offensive to everyone, the researchers left it to the students to determine if they were offended by certain comments.

The first study was done in 2007 and involved 1,384 high school students, and the second was conducted in 2013-2014 and included 1,485 students.

The results of both studies show that non-physical sexual harassment is damaging and has a negative effect on the receiver.

The researchers note that methods to combat harassment have been largely ineffective.

“This has been studied for years and in numerous countries, but no studies have yet revealed any lasting effects of measures aimed at combating sexual harassment,” said Bendixen. “We know that attitude campaigns can change people’s attitudes to harassment, but it doesn’t result in any reduction in harassment behavior.”

The researchers plan to conduct an upcoming study that further explores why sexual harassment is so pervasive in society, and how to reduce instances of harassment.

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer

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