Research & statistics

National research has captured the frequency, scope, and many faces of sexual bullying. The Georgia Network to End Sexual Assault (GNESA), funded by a grant from the Georgia Department of Public Health, began examining sexual bullying among Georgia’s youth in 2010. 

GNESA traveled the state and conducted 22 focus groups with adolescent males and adults who influence them. That research sought to better understand Georgians’ opinions about sexual bullying. From rural and urban communities to those in between, the insight gained was tremendous and validated key findings from national research.

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  • Although most adolescents could not define “sexual harassment,” most could describe behavior they had witnessed or experienced that clearly fell within the continuum of those behaviors.
  • Touching and groping, sexual rumors (especially among girls), and bullying of perceived LGBTQ+ youth were among the most frequently reported acts – with many participants stating this was a “daily” or “almost every day” occurrence at their schools.
  • Participants overwhelmingly reported the school and school-related venues as the primary locations where sexual bullying occurs, with hallways, lunchrooms, playgrounds, athletic stadiums, and buses being among the most popular places cited – locations where students congregate with minimal supervision
  • Youth often dismissed sexual bullying – such as touching and groping or teasing a student for his/her/their perceived sexual orientation – as “not that serious,” “joking,” and even “flirting.”
  • Many adults admitted they never considered many of the offending behaviors as sexual bullying – they perceived it as a normal part of being an adolescent or teen.


0 %
of Georgia middle school students have been bullied on school property.
0 %
of Georgia high school students have been bullied on school property.
0 %

of Georgia middle school students have been bullied electronically.

0 %

of Georgia high school students have been bullied electronically.

0 %

of the Georgia high school students who are dating (seriously or casually) were physically hurt on purpose by someone they were dating. 

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How Sexual Bullying Awareness Can Help Create a Healthy School Climate


Sexual bullying is a prevalent form of harassment among adolescents, particularly those between the ages of 10-15 years. Research shows that if children at these ages engage in this kind of behavior, they are more likely to become sexual perpetrators later in life. The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) partnered with health districts around the state to address this problem.

Sexual Rumors

  • 18 percent of middle school students and 14 percent of high school students are bullied online. 14 percent of students are the target of sexual rumors.

Name Calling

  • Students as young as fifth and sixth grade use homophobic language to hurt others.

Unwanted Touching

  • 18 percent of students reported being touched in a sexual way.


  • 43 percent of students reported being sexually harassed in the past year.


Step Up Step In (SUSI) was developed as an awareness campaign that engages teens, adults, and school partners in a variety of activities to help identify and stop sexual bullying.

Over the past three years, 11 health districts partnered with more than 30 middle and high schools to implement SUSI. Each participating school pledged to step sexual bullying, completed pre- and post-campaign tests, and initiated activities of their choosing to make students, educators, and administrators aware of sexual bullying. Pre- and post-test included questions about the definition of sexual bullying is a problem, and student willingness to intervene in an effort to gauge school climate.


  • 53 percent of high school students and 48 percent of middle school students believe that sexual bullying exists in their schools.
  • On average, most students in middle (78 percent) and high school (84 percent) supported the message of the campaign.
  • Regarding the effectiveness of SUSI in reducing sexual bullying in school, on average, middle school students agreed that SUSI made a difference but did not think that their friends share the same perception.


Step Up Step In (SUSI) was developed as an awareness campaign. After exposure to SUSI, students in middle and high school settings demonstrated an increased knowledge about the meaning of sexual bullying. More students could identify sexual rumors, texting sexual images of others without permission, and sexual threats as sexual bullying. Middle school students could also clearly identify sexual bullying to include unwanted touching and groping. However, high school student didn’t make the same connection. They did not identify unwanted touching and groping as sexual bullying, but attributed only much more aggressive behavior, such as rape, as sexual bullying. There’s more work to be done in this area.

The goal of any awareness campaign is to enlighten and inform the masses. Step Up Step In (SUSI) was a success in this area. In each school setting, students demonstrated their willingness to discuss the campaign messages with their friends and believed that their friends would do the same to help change the behaviors that support sexual bullying.