Sexist comments common across the province

Almost half of female high school students are subjected to sexual comments or gestures, and one-third are touched, grabbed or pinched in a sexual way, says a new study from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

In the wake of a report on school safety in Toronto showing troubling trends in violence and sexual harassment, psychologist David Wolfe said his study of 23 rural and urban high schools in southwestern Ontario shows the issue "is not a Toronto phenomenon."


"We’re saying it, unfortunately, is a very common phenomenon," Wolfe said.

The study of more than 1,800 students in Grade 9, with a followup two years later, found 46 per cent of girls were the target of sexual comments, jokes, gestures or looks at some point in both Grades 9 and 11, and 30 per cent were sexually "touched, grabbed or pinched" in Grade 9. That dropped only slightly — to 28 per cent — by Grade 11. Almost one-third of the girls in Grade 11 felt pressured into taking part in unwanted sexual activity, and 15 per cent "had oral sex just to avoid having sex."

Thirty-six per cent of males in Grade 9 were subjected to sexual comments or jokes, which dropped to 27 per cent by Grade 11.

‘alarming rates’

  • A recent survey of Toronto students at two city high schools, conducted by a safety panel headed by lawyer Julian Falconer, found "alarming rates" of sexual harassment and assault; in fact, 19 per cent of females at one school said they had been sexually assaulted at school in the past two years.

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