Strategies For Limiting Sexual Harassment Among Students In Higher Institutions

Sex Education Project and Seminar Material

Strategies For Limiting Sexual Harassment Among Students In Higher Institutions


Sexual Harassment (SH) which covers a continuum of behavioural patterns ranging from unwanted verbal advances to physical assault constitutes a major reproductive health concern worldwide. In Nigeria, studies have shown that students in institutions of higher learning are vulnerable to Sexual Harassment. However, its strategies among students has not been adequately explored.

The descriptive cross-sectional study involved the use of a two-stage sampling technique in selecting 250 consenting students at different levels of study at a case study of school of nursing (SNUCH). A pre-tested self-administered questionnaire containing information relating to students’ perception and prevalence of Sexual Harassment, consequences as well as strategies employed by victims was used for data collection. Descriptive and Chi-square statistics were used to analyze the data at 0.05 level of significance.

Sexual harassment is prevalent among the students of SNUCH, with females being more affected and strategies adopted were ineffective and unproductive. Institutional based interventions such as sensitization, coping strategy skills development, legislation and punitive policy reviews are needed to address these concerns.

Table of Content

Chapter One:


  • 1.1 Background to the Study
  • 1.2 Statement of the problem
  • 1.3 Research questions
  • 1.4 General objective
  • 1.5 Specific objectives
  • 1.6 Limitation of the Study
  • 1.7 Purpose of the Study
  • 1.8 Organization of the study

Chapter Two:

Literature Review

  • 2.1 Conceptual Review
  • 2.2 Theoretical Review
  • 2.3 Summary

Chapter Three:

Research Methodology

  • 3.1 Study design
  • 3.2 Study population
  • 3.3 Sample and sampling procedure
  • 3.4 Method and Instrument for data collection for the study
  • 3.5 Validity of the instrument
  • 3.6 Reliability of the instrument
  • 3,7 Data collection
  • 3.8 Data management
  • 3.9 Ethical consideration

Chapter Four:

Data Analysis and Result Presentation

  • 4.1 Data Presentation
  • 4.2 Data Analysis

Chapter Five:

Conclusion and Recommendation

  • 5.1 Implications of the Findings for Education
  • 5.2 Conclusion
  • 5.3 Recommendations

Chapter One


1.1 Background to the Study

Sexual harassment has been described as any unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours or other physical and expressive behaviour of a sexual nature (Bonnie 2009). It is a aggravated when (1) such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual‘s employment, academic success and any other right, or (2) Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for academic, employment and other decisions affecting the individual or (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual‘s academic or professional performance or of creating an intimidating hostile or offensive environment (Ladebo, 2003). Such unwelcome sexual advances could include unwanted and unwelcomed words, deeds, ctions, gestures, symbols, or behaviours of a sexual nature that make the target feel uncomfortable (Critina, 2012).

The victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of opposite sex. The harasser can be the victim‘s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, co-student or a non-employer.The victim may not be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct. Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim. The harasser‘s conduct must be unwelcome (U.S. equal employment opportunity commission). Sexual Harassment may take various forms like visual such as gestures, objects, pictures, posters and pinups; verbal: such as derogatory comments, jokes and demands as well as; physical: unwanted touching coerced kissing and others. (Taiwo, Omole and Omole 2014)

Globally, Sexual harassment has posed a great concern to authorities and governments. Researches have demonstrated the growing prevalence of sexual harassment across the continent, industries and occupations as well as the associated negative outcomes (Corgin and Fish 2009)

In Nigeria, the prevalence of sexual harassment trails the global trend, though sexual harassment in Nigeria appears to be under-researched and even less reported (Ladebo 2003), Kelly (2000) found that both employees and students experience sexual harassment with a proportion of 62 and 43 percent respectively while students (41 percent) are more likely to be the target of unwanted sexual attention than are employees (30 percent).

Bonnie (2009) stated some reasons why incident of sexual harassment sometimes go unreported by victims: Victims believe the harassment will stop if it is ignored, they are afraid no one will believe them, they feel intimidated, embarrassed, ashamed, or helpless, they are unfamiliar with college polices and complaint-resolution producers relating to sexual harassment(where it is in existence), they fear retaliation from the harasser, his or her colleagues, or the college, and they assume the harasser will not face any consequences, even if the allegations are proven to be true.

In the light of the above, what readily comes to mind is what strategies are employed to cope with the situations? According to Kelly and Parsons (2000), most victims of sexual harassment exhibit avoidance behaviour, for example, staying away from the aggressor or from the cases, victims blamed themselves for the situation, while others confide in friends or family members.

Religion, faith and spiritualism may be a source of comfort for some survivors as well. The victim could read journals or listen to music. In addition, activism, organizations, church or mosque, education and media campaigns could be employed. West (2000), The United State Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (2002) suggested that it is helpful for the victim of sexual harassment to directly inform the harasser that the conduct is unwelcome and must stop. The victim should use any employer complaint mechanism or grievance system available. The body also suggested that prevention is the best tool to eliminate sexual harassment in the work place. Bonnie (2009) identified the role of college authorities in assisting students to avert incidence of sexual harassment when he reported about Ithaca College, USA.

1.2 Statement of Problem

Although the subject of sexual harassment evokes spontaneous reaction from people whenever and wherever it is mentioned, there is no legislation in Nigeria that explicitly penalizes sexual harassment at work, including academic environments. Sexual harassment is yet to be officially recognized as the violation of the rights of an individual.

Organizations and Institutions often view it as two persons‘ personal problem (Kelly and Parsons 2000). Whereas, the problem of sexual harassment constitutes more health harzards to both victims and the entire community where it is being perpetrated than could be imagined as many emotional, physical, intrapersonal and societal challenging health issues are associated with the phenomenon.

In the last few years, the issue of gender violence has moved steadily up the world’s agenda. Sexual, physical and psychological violence causes as much of a burden of ill health and death among women aged 15 to 44 as cancer – and more than malaria and traffic accidents combined. But the fact that so many women are abused, mostly by men they know, is still something that most people don’t want to think about – and which legislation and policy are only slowly addressing (Mirsky, 2003). Sexual violence and harassment in schools, universities and higher education institutes, is even further from people’s minds. Educational institutions are supposed to be places of growth and learning for students. As such, they are regarded as “safe”. But this is not always the case. Recent research studies worldwide reveal that sexual violence in the education sector is an unaddressed problem. It ranges from groping female students in the cafeteria queue, to rape. Often it involves peers, but teachers and other staff are also perpetrators (Kelly and Parsons, 2000). Male and female students are both affected, but there is a significant gender gap, with girls and young women experiencing much higher levels of violence, reflecting broader gender inequalities in society.

Sexual violence and harassment violates women’s and girls’ human rights and damages their physical and psychological health. It undermines the pursuit of internationally agreed public health goals to enable adolescents to deal in a positive way with their sexuality, and to reduce unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections including HIV infection. For girls and young women, it severely limits their ability to achieve their educational potential. For society, therefore, it undercuts the transformatory power of education. Female education has been shown not only to contribute to improved family health but to be a major driver of social and economic development. Increasingly, universities and other colleges are making efforts to draw on the lessons of sexual violence research and activism and the experience of sexual harassment policies in the workplace, which is in itself a faulty procedure, to develop guidelines for students and staff. A wide range of strategies is required, from effective legislation and clear policy guidelines to age-appropriate educational initiatives incorporated in life skills, sexuality, HIV/AIDS education and the broader curricula. For younger students, issues need to be addressed in a way that is in keeping with their cognitive and emotional development. So, addressing and preventing sexual violence in the educational sectors is complex, due to the age range of students and the professional responsibilities – and power – held by teachers (Owoaje, and Olusola, 2009). Concepts such as equality and rights can be raised within the context of promoting respectful, loving relationships, or within conflict resolution and anti-bullying strategies (Mirsky, 2003).

1.3 Research questions

  1. What is the perception of students of U.C.H School of nursing about SH?
  2. What is the prevalence of SH among the study population?
  3. What are the perceived predisposing factors to experience of SH?
  4. What strategies do the students adopt against SH?
  5. How satisfied are the students about strategies employed?

1.4 General Objective

The general objective of this research work was to investigate the the perception, prevalence, types, perpetrators, predisposing factors, places of occurrence, as well as consequences of sexual harassment and strategies among students of the University College Hospital School of Nursing, Ibadan.

1.5 Specific Objectives

The specific objectives of this study were to:

  1. Investigate the perception of students about SH
  2. Determine the prevalence of SH among students of U.C.H Nursing School
  3. Investigate the perceived predisposing factors to SH
  4. Identify the strategies adopted by the Students to limit SH
  5. Assess the satisfaction of the students with the strategies employed.

1.6 Limitation of the Study

The limitation of this study included problem of accessing students in the hostels especially those who were off campus. The off campus students were accessed in the classrooms while the hostel matrons assisted in reaching the hostel students. Also, it took some time before respondents returned their questionnaires, this is probably due to the very busy nature of the students ‘educational schedule, so, the Researcher had to exercise a lot of patience during the procedure.

Another limitation of the study was that some of the respondents gave ―no response‖ to some sensitive questions about SH. Some of them confessed that they gave true information to the questions they responded to because it was a self-administered questionnaire.

1.7 Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study s to assess the influence of multimedia aids in teaching agricultural science in secondary school

1.8 Organization of the study

The study is organized into five chapters.

  • Chapter one covers; background to the study, statement of the problem, general objective of the study, specific objectives of the study, research hypotheses, significance of the study, limitation of the study, delimitations of the study, operational definition of terms and organization of the study.
  • Chapter two covers review of related literature arranged as per study objectives and explained from global, regional and narrowing to Nigerian situation while identifying research gaps through local studies done, summary of the literature review, theoretical framework and conceptual framework.
  • Chapter Three covers research methodology which includes: introduction, research design, target population, sampling techniques and sample size, data collection instruments, validity and reliability of research instruments, data collecting procedures, data analysis techniques and ethical considerations.
  • Chapter four covers research results of the study.
  • Chapter five covers discussions and interpretations of research findings.

Chapter Five

Discussion, Conclusion and Recommendations

5.1 Implications of the Findings for Education

The menace of sexual harassment has very absurd implication on reproductive and educational terrains of the society. Among students, sexual harassment has contributed to negative psychological, emotional and reproductive health experiences. The consequences of sexual harassment as reported in this study do not end where SH was experienced rather, the effect goes on for a long time if not for a life time with varying pathological impacts on reproductive education. Inadequate strategies or skills against SH among students of the School of Nursing UCH, is also reported to be low compounding the challenges posed by the menace. Eager to assert their adult independence, tertiary institution students want to view sexual harassment as something they can prevent, avoid, or manage on their own. Most do not report it or even talk openly about it as a serious issue. Still, sexual harassment is a familiar topic for higher education students including those in the School of Nursing. Perhaps as their own test of boundaries, students joke about what is and isn‘t sexual harassment, sarcastically exclaiming,

Students‘ attitudes about sexual harassment are a combination of uncertainty and contradiction. Students recognize that lines are being crossed, but they also know that these lines are blurry and open to interpretation. When is sexual harassment a joke and when is it a problem? Who decides? These questions confound students and others in the academic community. Meanwhile, sexual harassment ―happens all the time,‖ is ―just the way it is,‖ and is ―part of college life,‖ according to students. How is the standard of appropriate behaviour determined on a college campus? At what point does one student‘s freedom of expression interfere with another student‘s access to education?

Colleges and universities face the difficult test of promoting an atmosphere of free and creative expression while also enforcing standards of behaviour that result in a climate that supports learning for all students. As it stands, college students are struggling to understand and determine these standards for themselves— and often failing.
College students may be struggling to draw the line on sexual harassment for several reasons. First, the pervasiveness of sexual harassment on campuses may diminish its perceived importance. Students may not want to get upset about something that ―happens so often it almost feels normal.‖ Some students may assume that the prevalence of sexual harassment is a sign that other people think that it is okay, and these students may prefer to ignore its negative effects rather than be singled out as different. AAUW (2006)

Changes in traditional gender roles further complicate the question of where to draw the line. For young men, asserting and exhibiting masculinity remains paramount. Be a man! Don‘t be a girl, a sissy, a fag. Yet college women also find themselves in strange waters. T hey, too, receive messages that they can and should assert themselves sexually, but the messages about how to do so are confusing. Should they be sexually aggressive? If so, are they to blame if they experience sexual harassment? These young women second-guess their actions (and inactions) and tend to sweep actual incidences of sexual harassment under the rug. Thus reporting suffers the needed practice and this has a grieving consequence on the fight against sexual harassment. Adetunji (2008)

Dialogue and discussion is the first step toward drawing the line on sexual harassment on campus. The point is not merely to avoid lawsuits—although dialogue on the issue should help to do this—but to foster a climate on college campuses that supports rather than stifles students‘ emotional well-being and intellectual growth. AAUW (2006)

Through sensitization, enlightenment campaign as well as training on issues surrounding sexual harassment, students will be assisted to a great extent in drawing the between what constitute sexual harassment and what it is not. They will be expose to what and where they can seek help in case the fall victim. And the problem of silence will be taken care of. Ogunbameru (2006)

Sexual harassment defies a simple solution but demands action. It is unlikely to go away on its own. Talking candidly about the problem—seeking commonalities but acknowledging the inevitable conflicts—is a necessary step toward creating a harassment-free climate in which all students can reach their full potential. Garba (2010)
Greater importance than before should be laid on the need to eradicate SH from academic environment as it constitutes a great risk on reproductive health of both students and workers in the environment.

5.2 Conclusion

Sexual harassment has been found to be prevalent among the students of the School of Nursing, UCH, Ibadan, with the females being the predominant recipients. The act which is of various types occurs at different places within the school environment and it is perpetrated by predominantly male harassers. A number of factors have been identified as predisposing victims to experiencing SH. The study revealed that institutions of higher learning still have a lot to do to foster a campus climate that is free from bias and harassment so that all students will have equal opportunity to safety and then excel in higher education. As this research documents, higher institution students including those in School of Nursing experience some type of sexual harassment while at school, ranging from unwanted sexual remarks to forced sexual contact, these experiences cause students, especially female students, to feel upset, uncomfortable, angry, and disappointed in their school experience, some find it difficult to concentrate on their academics or experience academic failure . In response, students avoid places on campus, change their schedules, drop classes or activities, or otherwise change their lives to avoid sexual harassment. Many institutions of higher learning have no policies in place, this makes sexual harassment to continue to have a damaging impact on the educational experiences of many college students.

Based on the inferences drawn from the study, issues of sexual harassment at the School of Nursing have to be dealt with all determination and sincerity. This may suggest the need for a deliberate policy to address sexual harassment. With a sexual harassment policy that is widely circulated the academic community will be able to understand that the university will not tolerate sexual harassment and know that sexual harassment is illegal and is against policy. They will also know where to get professional help.

5.3 Recommendations

The challenges and recommendations based on the findings of this study are as follow:

  1. Proper legal definition of what constitutes sexual harassment is needed: Although the respondents provided an understanding of sexual harassment that was close to the universally acceptable definition, it is still important that all the relevant documents in the Scoll of Nursing, UCH should have a clear definition of the same and clear cut information about, and implication of perpetrating SH should be made available to all stakeholders within the school environment.
  2. A clear school policy on sexual harassment is essential as the school of nursing still lags behind in developing a sexual harassment policy.
  3. Clearly defined structures to report cases of sexual harassment should be established and empowered. As already discussed in the findings, the current structures of the school disciplinary committees have proved ineffective in relation to dealing with issues of sexual harassment. The School of Nursing community doesn‘t trust the current set-up and hence it will not have a long term impact in curbing harassment. Employers and employees should clearly communicate that sexual harassment will not be tolerated. They can do so by establishing an effective complaint or grievance process and taking immediate and appropriate action when an employee complains.
  4. Basic training regarding sexual harassment is highly essential, the ‗culture of silence‘, fear of reprisals and fear of being labeled by the college community (stigmatization) should be ameliorated. There is need for a strong political will amongst stakeholders of nursing education to debate over this issue and find lasting solutions to it as it has constituted major reasons why SH is on the increase in the school environment
  5. An effective guidance and counseling service within the school environment could help to assist students to find solutions to educational, social, psychological, emotional as well as health problems in the school environment. So there is a dare need to put this in place as it has never been in practice in the school of nursing.
  6. There is also need for advocacy. Of importance is the role of concerned local and foreign organizations and government agencies to organize periodic empowerment programmes aimed at reducing incidence of SH and building effective copping strategies and skills against SH for students and others in the academic environment.

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