Violence perpetration prevalence among Colorado (United States) high school students across gender, racial/ethnic, and sexual identities

Elsevier, Preventive Medicine, Volume 161, August 2022
Espelage D.L., Liu G.S., Valido A., Kuehl T., Basile K.C., Nickodem K.K.

Adolescent violence, including sexual violence, homophobic name-calling, and teen dating violence, are public health problems that cause harm to many adolescents in the United States. Although research on the perpetration of these forms of adolescent violence has increased in recent years, little is known about perpetration rates across gender, race/ethnicity, and sexual orientation. To address this gap, the current study descriptively examined perpetration rates between and across different identities, including self-identified race/ethnicity, sexual identity, and gender identity. In Fall 2017, 9th – 11th grade students (N = 4782) at 20 high schools in Colorado (United States) completed a survey that assessed demographics (e.g., race/ethnicity, sexual identity, and gender identity) and various forms of violence perpetration. Compared to female adolescents, male adolescents reported significantly higher perpetration rates for: any sexual violence (27% vs. 17%); sexual harassment (26% vs. 15%); unwanted sexual contact (8% vs. 4%); and homophobic name-calling (61% vs. 38%). Differences in perpetration rates were also observed among various racial/ethnic, sexual, and gender minority students compared to non-minority students. This emphasizes a need for more research on how minority stress that results from the dynamics of intersecting identities and societal systems of power–including racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia–contributes to violence perpetration. Evidence-based violence prevention approaches, particularly strategies targeted at changing social norms about violence, gender, and sexuality, need to be tailored and evaluated for students with diverse cultural and social identities to ensure safe school climates for all students.