Adolescents’ lived experiences of sexual harassment in the school environment
This study aimed to gain a deeper understanding of the lived experiences of adolescents with regard to sexual harassment within the school environment. It was considered in the light of actual cases reported on the Cape Flats in the Western Cape where adolescent girls sought counselling after being sexually harassed over a period of time, and were eventually sexually assaulted on their school grounds, by their peers. A qualitative methodological approach was utilised, and the sample was made up of nine adolescent females and one adolescent male between the ages of 15 and 17 years, who were asked to participate on a voluntary basis. Their selection followed purposive sampling at two selected high schools on the Cape Flats in the Western Cape. The research instrument used was an unstructured interview with an open-ended question to allow the participant to share openly and freely. Sound ethical considerations were taken into account throughout the study. Phenomenology was used as a theoretical framework and the data was analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). The four key themes, or essence of the adolescents’ lived experiences, that emerged for the study were: (1) boys don’t respect girls’ sexuality, (2) boys demonstrate power over girls, (3) girls who are sexually harassed at school are publicly humiliated, (4) reporting procedures at schools are inadequate. From the themes I concluded that for the girls, key principles relating to human rights within the South African Constitution were being violated; namely, the right to non-discrimination, the right to human dignity and the right to a safe school environment. Recommendations were made that address the role of the national and regional education departments as well as that of social workers.