Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Because God Said So: Religious Facets of Sexual and Gender Harassment in Christian Academia

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Because God Said So: Religious Facets of Sexual and Gender Harassment in Christian Academia

Article excerpt

The present study explored experiences of sexism (sexual and gender harassment) in a Christian university student population. This study assessed the frequency of sexism, documented how sexism is expressed in a Christian context, and evaluated the relationships between sexism and two outcomes, campus climate and college satisfaction. Additionally, it was hypothesized that attribution of gender harassment to the perpetrator's religious belief system would potentiate the negative effects of harassment. 187 female students completed an online questionnaire, including the Sexual Experiences Questionnaire--Short Form (SEQ), the General Campus Climate Scale (GCCS), and the MMPI-2 College Maladjustment Scale (CMS). Results indicated very low rates of sexual harassment. Also, religious attributions for gender harassment had a significantly negative relationship with the outcome variables although they did not moderate these outcomes. Qualitative descriptions of students' experiences with gender harassment were recorded, shedding light on what gender harassing behaviors look like in Christian academia.

In 1972, former president Richard Nixon signed Educational Amendment Title IX making it illegal for academic institutions to exclude participation, deny benefits, or subject students to discrimination based on gender (United States Department of Labor, 1972). Although this amendment was prompted by frustration regarding unequal athletic opportunities, students outside of athletic programs also benefited as it became illegal for teachers to discriminate based on gender in any academic setting. This landmark case both signified the government's recognition of sexism's presence in academia and also encouraged research to explore students' experiences of sexism within academia. Research on students' experiences of sexual harassment and gender harassment (two subcategories of sexism) will be briefly reviewed. While some categorize gender harassment as a subset of sexual harassment (e.g., Huerta, Cortina, Pang, Torges, & Magley, 2006), given its unique role in a Christian population (Hall, Christerson, & Cunningham, 2010), it will be discussed separately here. While previous research has focused on sexual harassment and gender harassment in secular settings, the current study is interested in examining how gender harassment and sexual harassment are experienced by undergraduate students in a Christian higher education setting.

Sexual Harassment in Academia

Sexual harassment in academic settings includes quid pro quo harassment ("requests for sexual favors in exchange for some type of educational participation or benefit"; Hill & Silva, 2005, p. 7) and hostile environment harassment ("harassing sexual conduct that is so severe, persistent, or pervasive that it limits a student's ability to participate or benefit from educational activities"; p. 7). Considering the amount of variability within sexual harassment, it is no surprise that while incidences of sexual harassment are frequently reported, these same reporters do not always realize that the behavior they are recalling is an act of sexual harassment (Kalof, Eby, Matheson, & Kroska, 2001). Indeed, while 62% of female students report being the victim of sexual harassment while on their college campuses, actual frequencies may be much higher considering some victims' difficulty in labeling harassment (Hill & Silva, 2005). Sexual harassment both victimizes and is perpetrated by males and females. However, because females are overwhelmingly more likely to be the victims of sexual harassment (Menard, Shoss, Pincus, 2010), research documenting females' experiences as victims of sexual harassment will be the focus of this review and of this study.

Given the prevalence of sexual harassment in student populations, there has been considerable research on the outcomes of harassment for its victims. Physically; sexual harassment contributes to issues of body image, eating disturbances, and overall greater physical illness (Harned, 2000; Huerta et al. …

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