Des Moines, IA- Recent studies have shown that sexual harassment is not an adult problem and many students from college to middle school encounter this type of behavior daily.  Now a new study has linked the prevalence of sexual harassment in middle school to gang activity.

The study conducted by the University of Kansas and co-authored by Anjali Forber-Pratt, assistant research professor in the Bureau of Child Research looked at the incidents of sexual harassment and bullying in one Midwestern school and found that in this particular school, which has a known gang presence, these types of victimization were more prevalent.

“We learned this school has a high gang presence. So what happens when you have a school with a high known gang involvement? We learned that the incidents of sexual harassment are more violent and there is more homophobic teasing,” Forber-Pratt explained to Phys.org.

Girls who participated in the study told researchers they were subjected to more incidents of aggressive sexual harassment, admitted to being groped and coerced into complying with sexual advances. Some of the girls interviewed were given color-coded bracelets to indicate how far they are willing to go under sexual pressure, Phys.org reported. Boys faced teasing about their sexuality and were called homophobic slurs by gang leaders.

Researchers said a gang presence created a culture of fear among students, teachers and administrators which allowed sexual harassment and bullying to go on unchecked. This finding, researchers say, shows that teachers and administrators need to make it known that sexual harassment is wrong and will not be tolerated.

Students of any age, who are sexually harassed, suffer long-term anxiety and depression which will affect their academic performance and attendance. Students perform better when they feel safe at school and positive experiences.

This is the first study to look at the effects a gang presence can have on a school environment and researchers plan to conduct additional studies to develop solutions for bullying and sexual harassment in schools.

It’s very important to make students understand that sexual harassment is wrong. These young students who see sexual harassment as a part of a normal day will one day enter the workforce. An understanding of what constitutes as sexual harassment early in life can help these young people prevent future issues with harassment when they enter the workplace.

Overall, sexual harassment in the workplace has declined over the past few decades but the problem is not going away. Almost half of working age women admits to being sexually harassed at least once in their working lives. While some of the sexual harassment is a one-time incident that is easily addressed, tens of thousands of women experience sexual harassment on a daily basis and their employers fail to address it. In many cases, employers punish the complainant instead of the harasser.

Victims of workplace harassment can turn to an Iowa sexual harassment attorney to not only stop their abuse, but to also seek compensation for their lost wages and emotional distress.