Nearly 1 in 3 Teen Girls Reports Having Survived Sexual Violence. 19/4/2017

Published by TEENVOGUE

Sexual violence is taking a huge toll on teen girls in the U.S. — and it's having a serious impact on their education, according to a new report just released by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC).

The NWLC's nationwide study, conducted in January 2017 in collaboration with Lake Research Partners, surveyed 1,003 girls between the ages of 14 and 18 and oversampled black, Latinx, Asian/Pacific Islander, Native American, and LGBTQ girls. It found that a whopping 31% of teen girls surveyed (nearly 1 in 3) reported having survived sexual assault or violence of some kind. The report is part of NWLC’s Let Her Learn: Stopping School Pushout, a series of reports examining the educational barriers experienced by different groups of girls, including girls of color and those who have suffered harassment and sexual violence.

According to the Let Her Learn survey, 21% of respondents reported being kissed or touched without consent, and girls who described themselves as survivors of sexual assault were found to be more than twice as likely as girls overall to report being hurt or injured on purpose by a family member.

The numbers are particularly troubling when it comes to young women of color and those who identify as LGBTQ: 38% of LGBTQ girls, 24% of Latinx girls, 23% of Native American girls, and 22% of black girls reported being touched or kissed without their consent. Likewise, while 6% of all girls surveyed reported being forced to have sex when they did not want to, the same was reported by 15% of LGBTQ girls surveyed, 11% of Native American girls, 9% of black girls, and 7% of Latinx girls.

But those aren’t the only disturbing facts supported by the new NWLC data, which underscored the additional, unique educational barriers faced by specific populations of teenage girls — and the way that teenage survivors of sexual assault experience harsher outcomes than their peers.

For example, while 22% of girls overall said that someone has used a racial slur used against them, numbers were highest amongst Asian or Pacific Islander girls (46%), Native American girls (45%), girls who have experienced homelessness (38%), and survivors of sexual assault (38%).

Furthermore, 67% of all girls reported experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), while the experience of such symptoms was reported by 86% of girls who have experienced homelessness, 91% of girls who are survivors of sexual assault, and 83% of those who identify as LGBTQ.

Likewise, while 14% of girls overall reported being absent from school because they felt they would be unsafe either at school or on their way to school, the numbers were once again higher when it came to girls who had experienced homelessness (35%), were survivors of sexual assault (30%) or identified as LGBTQ (25%).

Even harassment based on their name or family’s country of origin is highest among girls who have experienced homelessness (32%) and those who have survived sexual assault (28%), compared with 13% of girls surveyed overall.

NWLC's report on stopping school pushout for girls who have experienced harassment and sexual violence also offers recommendations for how these girls can be helped to succeed in school despite what they have experienced in terms of gender-based violence. It suggests that policymakers engage a diverse set of girls in the process of crafting solutions to the educational barriers they face and offers New York City’s Young Women's Initiative as an example of one way to do so. It also calls on the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights to continue strong enforcement of Title IX "to ensure that schools are appropriately investigating complaints of sexual and gender-based harassment and violence and providing student victims with the accommodations and services they need."

The report also recommends that schools "annually provide all members of of their school community with mandatory, culturally responsive, trauma-informed, age-appropriate, and gender-identity-sensitive training on bullying, harassment, and sexual violence" — including information on consent, healthy relationship skills, and bystander intervention. Schools should also train their community on how to identify and support survivors of sexual violence, the report says.