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German students face verbal or physical sexual violence

Rebecca Staudenmaier
June 9, 2017

A German study has found that 48 percent of surveyed students aged 14 to 17 have experienced verbal or physical sexual violence. Researchers said that the violence was often carried out by the students' peers.

Deutschland Deutschunterricht im Gymnasium
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Felix Kästle

Sexualized violence is becoming more commonplace in the lives of German students, according to the results of a recent study by the University of Giessen and the University of Marburg.

Researchers in the German state of Hesse surveyed 2,719 students between the ages of 14 and 17 about their experiences with verbal, written or physical sexualized violence.

Almost half - 48 percent of the surveyed students - said they had experienced at least one form of non-physical sexualized violence.

Examples included being forced to look at someone else's genitals, or that someone spread rumors with sexual content about the respondent, or that someone made sexual jokes, insults or comments to the respondent.

Three times as many girls than boys reported being sexually harassed or propositioned online.

Girls impacted most by physical violence

Almost a quarter of the surveyed students said they had already experienced some form of physical sexual violence, including being groped or being forced to kiss someone against their will. A majority of girls who said they'd experienced physical violence said that someone had grabbed them sexually against their will.

Researchers emphasized that girls are significantly more affected by physical sexual violence than boys. Around 30 percent of the surveyed girls reported that someone had grabbed them sexually against their will, compared to 5 percent of boys.

Almost 11 percent of the girls and 1.4 percent of boys said that someone tried to coerce or force them to have sex while 3 percent of girls and 0.3 percent of boys said they had been raped.

Deutschland Symbolbild Ganztagsschule
The study found that a majority of non-physical acts of sexualized violence happen at schoolImage: picture-alliance/dpa/A. Körner

The results also found that the frequency of attempts to force girls to have sex rises with their age.

The results also found that as the students get older, the prevalence of physical sexual violence rises. While 13 percent of the 14-year-olds reported that someone had attempted to force them to have sex, the proportion rose to 25 percent with the surveyed 17-year-olds.

Peers pose a large threat

When presenting the results on Thursday in the city of Wiesbaden, the study's two main researchers highlighted one of the study's main takeaways - that fellow students are often the perpetrators.

"The main risk for [perpetuating] sexualized violence are other youths - meaning their peers," Professors Sabine Maschke and Ludwig Stecher said.

Around 48 percent of the perpetrators of physical sexual violence and 64 percent of those who carried out non-physical violence were "friends" or "classmates" according to the study.

Additionally, students reported that over 50 percent of non-physical sexualized violence occurs at school.

Researchers concluded that in order to lower the rates of sexualized violence that students experience, prevention and education are key - including sexual education and puberty lessons that start in primary school. They recommended that teachers emphasize lessons on sexual consent and that they recognize that peers can be perpetrators as well.

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