Atlanta Journal-Constitution (04.13.12) - Tuesday, April 17,
"It's just a joke. He's just playing. She's being funny. He's
flirting. She wants the attention.
"Time and again we hear these misguided perceptions of sexual
harassment that occurs between adolescents and teens - a broad
category of behavior that includes unwanted touching and
groping, sharing lewd images, and spreading sexually charged
rumors about classmates.
"While the behavior doesn't always lead to more extreme forms
of sexual violence, it can overlap with bullying and be so
subtle that adults may not even detect it. ... Nationally,
nearly half of seventh- through 12th-grade students
experienced some form of sexual harassment electronically or
in-person during the 2010-11 school year.
"The same study found perpetrators often thought they were
being funny. Their actions, however, affected their victims'
study habits, fueled their reluctance to attend school, and
even drove feelings of physical illness.
"Gov. Nathan Deal has signed a proclamation designating April
as Sexual Assault Awareness Month in Georgia. ... With one in
six Georgia girls and women between the ages of 15 and 44
having been forced to have sex against their will at least
once in their lifetime, this month serves as a crucial moment
in elevating awareness and understanding about sexual assault,
and the more subtle behaviors that can lead to it. ...
Seventy-two percent of sexual assault assailants in Georgia,
for example, knew their victims as acquaintances, family
members, spouses, boyfriends or friends. ...
"Communities can play a role in teaching adolescents and teens
about the parameters of behavior that occur within healthy
relationships and correcting offensive behavior early.
"The messages to our youth can be simple: Stop touching and
groping others. Stop gossiping about sexual acts. Stop
spreading rumors about someone's perceived sexual orientation.
Stop sending lewd messages to others.
"It's not funny, and the behavior is not tolerated in our
school, in our household or in our community."
The author is CEO of the Georgia Network to End Sexual