The prevalence of sexual harassment within a student sample of Stellenbosch University

Date: May 29, 2012
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Due to the extensive prevalence of sexual violence permeating the present day South African society, the social relevance of a study of the extent and nature of sexual harassment among university students, cannot be overestimated. This is particularly evident if one takes into account the growing number of research studies undertaken in South Africa and elsewhere on the African continent indicating the presence of this social evil on campuses of higher education. The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence, effects, correlates and perceptions of different types of sexual harassment among a student sample at Stellenbosch University. The methodology applied in this study can be viewed as quantitative in nature as it entailed the use of a survey design. The researcher developed a new questionnaire to investigate the pervasiveness of students’ experience of, reaction to, and beliefs about sexual harassment. This questionnaire consisted of sub-scales, of which some were newly developed by the researcher, and others, based on existing scales, were adapted for the purposes of this study. The design took the form of a questionnaire that covered the time period during which the students were enrolled at Stellenbosch University. Both undergraduate and post-graduate students from the four campuses of Stellenbosch University (i.e., Bellville, Saldanha, Stellenbosch and Tygerberg) were invited to participate in the study. The total sample consisted of 1679 students. The electronic questionnaire consisted of a total of 27 separate questions with some of the questions having various sub-sections. Data were obtained on the socio-demographic profile of students. The questionnaire explored student perceptions of which behavioural types constituted sexual harassment, the number of times a participant had been a victim of a particular type of sexual harassment, whether alcohol or drugs played a contributory role in the victimisation, whether the participant sought help from available support services following the victimisation, the location of the incidents of sexual harassment and whether the offender was known to the victim or not. Gender role attitudes of students, indicating the extent to which sexual harassment is tolerated by the student community, were also investigated. The questionnaire furthermore explored issues of same-sex sexual harassment, the occurrence of group harassment and the possible effects, be it social, emotional or academic, that the victim might have suffered.

Publisher: University of Stellenbosch
Year of Publication: 2010

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