San Diego State University (SDSU) School of Public Health MPH graduate student, Mr. Brandon Khuu, was selected to receive an award at this year’s American Public Health Association (APHA) Annual Conference and Expo. Mr. Khuu’s research won the 2018 Sexual Reproductive Health Section Poster Award, given to recognize students and professionals with poster presentations within the sexual and reproductive health section of the APHA that displayed excellence in research, clarity of presentation, potential impact of the results, and innovativeness of the approach.
Mr. Khuu worked with SDSU professor, Dr. Elizabeth Reed and several other SDSU/UCSD-based co-authors and conducted a study, funded by the National Institute on Child Health and Development (NICHD), which focused on assessing the places and frequency in which girls witness sexual harassment as well as to determine whether witnessing sexual harassment was associated with poor health related outcomes above and beyond any direct experiences of sexual harassment. The study was conducted among adolescent girls visiting a health clinic in San Diego County, California. It was found that 70 percent of surveyed girls reported that they had witnessed sexual harassment in the previous six months. Additionally, girls were most likely to report witnessing sexual harassment within their immediate environments, including school (69 percent), social gatherings (48 percent), their neighborhoods (37 percent), and on public transportation (32 percent). Finally, it was found that girls who witnessed sexual harassment were more likely to report substance use and poor mental health status. These presented findings were consistent regardless of whether or not the girls experienced direct sexual harassment.
Mr. Khuu states that the findings from his research are important in today’s society because, “as the topic of sexual harassment is gaining more traction within the public through the #MeToo movement, our results indicate that witnessing sexual harassment can be as damaging as direct experiences of sexual harassment.” He states that, “these findings are particularly concerning since most girls reported recent incidents of witnessing sexual harassment and these experiences occurred in their immediate environments; thus, in addition to the adverse health outcomes that these experiences are associated with, witnessing sexual harassment may also interfere with girls’ mobility and perceptions of safety.”
Historically, research has often focused only on the effects of direct experiences of sexual violence and harassment. Mr. Khuu states that their findings suggest that, “by only assessing direct experiences, we may not be fully capturing the impact of how sexual violence and harassment affects the health and well-being of young women and girls. More work is needed to explore a broader range of sexual abuses that girls are exposed to directly and indirectly to understand the full impact on girls”.