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11-01-2018 | Original Paper | Uitgave 6/2018

Journal of Child and Family Studies 6/2018

A Qualitative Investigation of Gang Presence and Sexual Harassment in a Middle School

Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 6/2018
Anjali J. Forber-Pratt, Dorothy L. Espelage


Our goal with this qualitative case study was to explore the relationship between gang membership/presence of gangs in a middle school on the experiences of sexual harassment from the perspectives of both bullies and victims. This study sought to explore the characteristics of sexual harassment taking place in one middle school with a gang presence, the relationship of gang membership/presence to the types of sexual harassment experienced or witnessed, and student perceptions of the influence of gangs on sexual harassment. Thompson Middle School enrolls approximately 440 students. The surrounding community has more than 20 gangs with 2000 known gang members. Data were collected from 10 student interviews and unstructured observations from researcher field notes to capture experiences from one middle school. Analysis was performed using a modified van Kaam approach. Resulting themes centered on what students knew about sexual harassment, the types of sexual harassment they witnessed at their school, and reasons why they thought sexual harassment was occurring with such frequency. Sexual harassment appears to be heightened when there is a gang presence and visible gang activity. Incidents appear to happen more in the ‘open’ rather than hidden. The pressure to give into sexual advances by gang members appears to be especially heightened for girls. The types of sexual harassment acts described by the students as highly invasive with many classified as same-sex acts as initiated by the gang members. Sexual harassment prevention programs in schools with a gang presence need to incorporate discussions related to gang influence.

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