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Connection between Bullying and Sexual Violence Perpetration

Young boys whisperingWhile youth bullying experiences and sexual violence perpetration are both major public health problems, little research exists on the positive associations between the two. A recent study, Bullying Perpetration and Subsequent Sexual Violence Perpetration among Middle School Students, published by the University of Illinois and CDC, attempted to examine the link between bullying and sexual violence acts among middle school aged adolescents in grades 5th through 8th.

Published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, the study found a substantial prevalence of bullying, homophobic teasing and sexual harassment among middle school students ages 10–15. Findings show 12% of males and 12% of females reported bullying other students. In addition, 20% of females and 34% of males reported homophobic teasing of other students.

Other study findings include:

  • 5% of boys and 7% of girls spread a sexual rumor.
  • 4% of boys and 2% of girls pulled at someone’s clothing.
  • Forced sexual contact in the form of touching someone’s private parts was reported by 1% of boys and a negligible number for girls.
  • 26% of boys and 24% of girls reported homophobic teasing directed at a friend.
  • Both boys and girls reported making sexual comments and calling other students gay/lesbian at rates of 28–39%, with boys reporting slightly higher perpetration rates.

Young girl left outThis study underscores the importance of identifying, evaluating, and implementing effective approaches to prevent bullying, with the ultimate goal of stopping bullying before it starts. This includes implementing school rules and behavior management techniques aimed at effectively detecting and addressing bullying as well as other strategies designed to prevent violence. Continued surveillance and research is needed to assess the prevalence of bullying, sexual harassment and sexual violence and to develop effective prevention programs.

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  • Page last updated: December 27, 2013 The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
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