Nearly half of U.S. students in grades seven to 12 were victims of sexual harassment last year, according to a new survey.
The survey of 1, 965 students, conducted by the Association of American University Women, found that 48 per cent of students reported being sexually harassed, either in person or online.
"Sexual harassment is part of everyday life in middle and high schools," said the 76-page report, the Associated Press reports.
"Sexually harassed students who took part in the AAUW survey reported having trouble studying, not wanting to go to school, and feeling sick to their stomach," the report states.
Only nine per cent of students who were victims of sexual harassment during last year's school year reported the incident to a teacher or guidance counsellor.
Perhaps even more worrisome, 44 per cent of students who sexually harassed their peers said that it was just a part of school life, while 39 per cent said, "I thought it was funny."
Fifty-six per cent of girls reported being sexually harassed, compared to 40 per cent of boys.
Harassment took the form of having others make sexual comments, jokes or gestures towards students, which 33 per cent of all respondents said had happened to them, as well as being touched in an unwelcome sexual way, which 13 per cent of girls reported happening to them, compared to three per cent of boys.
Earlier this year, researchers at Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health researched sexual harassment and bullying at 23 schools in Southwestern Ontario. The survey of 1, 819 grade nine and 11 students conducted by Dr. David Wolfe, found that large numbers of students had homophobic insults directed at them. As well, 29 per cent of grade nine girls and 33 per cent of grade nine boys reported feeling unsafe at school in the past month.
"Going to high school today is like running the gauntlet," Dr. Wolf said in a statement. "All these behaviours, from physical violence to verbal harassment, can be harmful and have serious effects on their well-being. Bullying and harassment are well known to affect an individual's health and adjustment, including problems such as depression, substance abuse, anxiety and academic failure."