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 Table of Contents  
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2017  |  Volume : 30  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 51-56

Sexual harassment among female students of Menoufia University


1 Department of Family Medicine, Menoufia University, Menoufia, Egypt
2 Department of Industerial Health and Occupational Medicine, Menoufia University, Menoufia, Egypt
3 Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, Menoufia University, Menoufia, Egypt
4 Faculty of Medicine, Menoufia University, Menoufia, Egypt

Date of Submission12-Dec-2015
Date of Acceptance04-Apr-2016
Date of Web Publication25-Jul-2017

Correspondence Address:
Zeinab A Kasemy
Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Menoufia University, Menoufia
Egypt
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/mmj.mmj_523_15

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  Abstract 


Background
Sexual harassment (SH) of students has recently become a topic of interest to researchers and the general public alike. Although numerous studies document its frequency, the development of conceptual models identifying the prevalence and consequences of harassment has proceeded at a slower pace.
Objectives
The study aimed at studying the prevalence of SH among female students of Menoufia University and its effects.
Patients and methods
A cross-sectional study was carried out on 1940 female university students (972 students in practical faculties and 968 students in theoretical ones), over a period of 7 months, between 15 March to 30 October 2015. The interview sites included classes of Menoufia University.
Results
The study shows the effectiveness of community-based targeted questionnaires in identifying SH among 1940 female university students. The prevalence of SH was 65.3% among the total studied number (64.6% in practical faculties and 65.9% among theoretical ones) (P = 0.548). The prevalence of different types of SH was as follows: verbal type, 76.5%; following, 12.8%; touching, 20.3%; and physical violence, 1.1%. A number of risk factors were behind exposure to SH, such as wearing tight clothes (odds ratio = 2.88, 2.01–4.11) and wearing hot colors (odds ratio = 2.11, 1.65–2.70). The effects of SH were as follows: feeling insecure (56.7%), depression (25.0%), self- reproach (15%), revenge desire (9.3), and denial (8.9%).
Conclusion
SH is prevalent in Menoufia Governorate with many serious effects.

Keywords: harassment, sexual harassment, University students


How to cite this article:
Farahat TM, Abdel-Rasoul GM, Kasemy ZA, Mohammed NK. Sexual harassment among female students of Menoufia University . Menoufia Med J 2017;30:51-6

How to cite this URL:
Farahat TM, Abdel-Rasoul GM, Kasemy ZA, Mohammed NK. Sexual harassment among female students of Menoufia University . Menoufia Med J [serial online] 2017 [cited 2019 Aug 19];30:51-6. Available from: http://www.mmj.eg.net/text.asp?2017/30/1/51/211515




  Introduction Top


Sexual harassment (SH) can be defined as bullying or coercion of sexual nature, or the unwelcome or inappropriate promise of rewards in exchange for sexual favors [1]. It is an illegal action. Harassment can include 'sexual harassment' or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. SH may occur in a variety of circumstances such as factories, school, faculties, and streets [2]. Most of the times the harasser is in a position of power over the victim by being different in age, or social, political, employment, or educational relationships.

Four different classes of harassers have been described [3]. Predatory harasser is the one who gets sexual thrills from humiliating other people. This harasser may frequently harass just to see targets' responses. Those who show no resistance may even become targets for rape [2]. Dominance harasser is a person who engages in harassing behavior as an ego boost [3]. Strategic harassers are those who seek to maintain splendor in jobs or physical locations [4]. Street harasser is a person who engages in SH of strangers in public places. Street harassment includes verbal and nonverbal behavior, remarks that are frequently sexual in nature and comments on the physical appearance or a person's presence in public [4].

SH and assault can be prevented with secondary school [5], college [6],[7], and workplace education programs [8].

Many Greek organizations and universities nationwide have antihazing policies that explicitly recognize various acts and examples of hazing, and offer preventative measures for such situations.

SH may lead to many effects depending on the recipient's psychological capabilities to cope, the type of harassment, and the social support. As a result of humiliation and stress, the effects may be as follows: depression, anxiety, shame and guilt, panic attacks, sleep disorders, nightmares, difficulty in concentration, headache, fatigue or feeling aimless, stomach troubles, eating disorders, alcoholism, feeling betrayed, feeling angry or tendency for revenge toward the harasser, feeling powerless, increased blood pressure, loss of confidence and self-esteem, withdrawal and isolation, loss of trust in all people, traumatic stress, post-traumatic stress disorder, complex post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidal thoughts or even attempts [9],[10].


  Aim Top


The aim of this work was to study the prevalence of SH, different risk factors of exposure, and its effects among university female students.


  Patients and Methods Top


Study design

A cross-sectional study was conducted from 15 March to 30 October 2015.

Study population

The study population comprised female students of El-Menoufia University faculties.

Sample size

Two theoretical faculties (art and education) and two practical ones (medicine and science) had been chosen randomly out of the total nine theoretical and 11 practical faculties. The sample size was estimated to be 1438 female students. However, the sample size had been increased to 2200 to perform a pilot study and avoid the dropout. A pilot study was performed on 200 university female students who were then excluded from the study. The purpose of the study was explained to the participants and questionnaires were filled after their consent and obtaining permission from the deans of the studied faculties. A total of 2000 questionnaires were distributed among students of grades 1, 2, and 4 at early morning before starting the lectures, once per week over a period of 7 months, from 15 March to 30 October 2015. The interview sites included classes of Menoufia University. About 1940 questionnaires were returned, giving a response rate of 97%. The questionnaire included data on personal data, appearance and activities, exposure to SH, and physical and psychological effects of SH on harassed university female students.

Statistical analysis

Statistical analysis was generated using the statistical package for social sciences statistical software (SPSS16, 2007; SPSS Inc., Chicago, Illinois, USA). The results are expressed as number and percentage. The c2 was test was used for qualitative variables. The Z-test was used for proportions. A P value of 0.05 or less was considered to be significant.


  Results Top


Distribution of the participant characteristics: of the 1940 participants, 66% were aged lower to 20 years and 62.6% were at grades 1 and 2. Urban participants constituted 35.3%. No enough income accounted for 13.7% of the sample. In total, 65.3% were exposed to SH [Table 1].
Table 1 Distribution of the studied participants as regards their characteristics

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The types of harassment were distributed as follows: verbal, 76.5%; following, 12.8%; touching, 20.3%; and physical violence, 5.3%. The effects of SH were significantly higher in the exposed group and it varied into insecurity (56.7%), depression (25%), self-reproach (15%), and revenge desire (18.2%) [Table 2].
Table 2 Distribution of the studied exposed students as regards the components of sexual harassment and its effect

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Those who were traveling by bus or train were exposed more to SH than those were not. Those who were rural residents were exposed to SH more frequently than those of urban residence (P < 0.001). As the faculty exists in the urban sector, this big exposure to SH may be attributed to the feeling that the harassed female students are outsiders and hence there is no family protection layer for them in contrast to urban ones. Moreover, returning home during night time was significantly higher in the exposed group than in the nonexposed one (P < 0.001) [Table 3].
Table 3 Distribution of the studied exposed and nonexposed students to sexual harassment as regards their characteristics

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Wearing tight clothes, in hot colors, and putting make-up were risk factors for exposure to harassment [odds ratio (OR)=2.88 CI 2.01–4.11, OR = 2.11 CI 1.65–2.70, and OR = 3.23 CI 1.97–5.31, respectively] [Table 4].
Table 4 Distribution of the studied exposed and nonexposed students to sexual harassment as regards their appearance

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As regards physical and psychological status, the following items were significantly higher among patients exposed to SH than among those nonexposed to SH. Among the exposed the percentages were as follows: feeling uncomfortable (91.4 vs. 82.5%), feeling sad (95.8 vs. 88.6%), wanting to cry (99 vs. 92.1%), nightmares (80.8 vs. 75.7%), feeling broken down (69.7 vs. 49.4%) and tachycardia (59.2 vs. 44.7%) [Table 5].
Table 5 Distribution of the studied exposed and nonexposed students to sexual harassment as regards the psychological and physical status

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  Discussion Top


As regards the prevalence of SH in this study, 65.3% of the total studied participants were exposed to SH. Types of SH varied from verbal type, follow, touch, to physical violence. One study reported that 20–30% of university students experience harassment [11]. A study performed in China reported 24% prevalence [12]. A recent report by the American Association of University Women found a prevalence of 62% for SH on campus, which was near to the study results [13]. Another study shows that the prevalence of SH reported in the USA from a national population sample was only 33% for women aged 18–49 years [14]. The results of this study show that harassment on the university campus was experienced generally from a colleague (not personally known to them). However, 8.4% of respondents reported being harassed by male students of the same or different faculty. Verbal harassment in this study was the most prevalent as consistent with other studies [15],[16],[17]. A nationwide survey in China reported the prevalence of SH among urban women aged 20–45 to be 19%, with 12% reporting verbal harassment and 12% physical harassment [14]. In Finland, the nationally representative Women's Safety Study reported that 19.6% of women experienced a range of harassment behaviors [18]. Furthermore, several factors may explain the lower prevalence of SH in the other countries as compared with Egypt. First, definitions of SH differ, and some of the above studies include only more severe forms of violence such as rape, attempted rape, other forced acts, and situations where the women felt fear. Second, the previous studies measured the harassment among a wide age group (≥60 years in some cases). As the prevalence of harassment decreases with age [19], this may account for the overall lower prevalence measured in these studies. The results of the current study show that most of the harassments occur in the public streets and in public transport. Although few studies have been conducted on SH in public places, a study performed on passengers on the New York subway system showed that 63% of responders reported being sexually harassed [20], which is nearly similar to the current study findings. The results also show that SH commonly occurs in the theoretical faculties. This is consistent with a study carried out on Jimma University female students [18]. Negative reactions to SH were reported, particularly fear, anger, shame, and sadness; all were felt by the majority of the participants. Other common reactions were self-blame, distrust of others, frustration, hostility and difficulty in concentration, and depression. These reactions have been noted on studying SH in different populations [21],[22],[23],[24]. Other studies, using a variety of questionnaires have found a significant relationship between harassment and various forms of distress such as psychological symptoms and psychological distress [22],[23]. These studies mostly reported SH in institutions such as the workplace and school environment, where the harassment could have been chronic and the harasser was known to the victim. Such situations may cause more stress compared with the situations more commonly reported by our study respondents, which were transient incidents mostly by strangers. One study has previously reported that harassment at school is associated with poor health status and higher levels of depression compared with harassment at other public places [24].


  Conclusion Top


This study indicated that the overall prevalence rate of harassment, particularly verbal type among university female students was very high. Students who were harassed were more likely to experience psychological and physical reactions relative to female students who were not harassed. These findings show important implications for the university officials and policy makers. Universities should be free from any form of harassment, and thus Menoufia University officials should announce harassment-free environments to smoothly conduct the teaching learning process so that female students' academic performance rate increases. Otherwise, as a result of psychological effects that accompany harassments female students tend to dropout. Therefore, there should be cooperation between Menoufia University Hospital and other faculties to control these problems and put an end to it by establishing referral linkage with psychiatric clinic. Moreover, Menoufia University in collaboration with the women rights must formulate a workable policy against the various forms of female SH and ensure its implementation. In addition, creating awareness in the university community on the negative impacts of various forms of SHs on female students, empowering and building the capacity of female students on their right and how to deal with SHs, and taking strong action against harassers are some of the strategies that could minimize the problem. Moreover, the university should work in collaboration with the community and the police at large to fight against female SHs as the problem was also present outside the campus.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
  References Top

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    Tables

  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4], [Table 5]



 

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