This study examines whether online sexual harassment (SH) is a unique form of behavior, separate and apart from in-person SH.
Data were drawn from the National Survey on Teen Relationships and Intimate Violence (STRiV), a national representative household survey focused on youth interpersonal aggression. A weighted sample of 1,184 youth (12-21 years old) completed a baseline and a follow-up survey 1 year later. Through latent class analysis (LCA), we investigate our first research question of whether there are distinct classes/profiles of mutually exclusive online or in-person SH victims or whether they mostly overlap. Second, does there exist a high-rate group of SH victims who experience most of the SH behaviors both in-person and online? Third, what individual characteristics and behaviors, based on past research, are associated with these identified profiles of SH? LCA did not reveal an in-person-only or online-only SH class. The majority of the sample (78.5%) were represented in a Low/Near Zero SH class; 15.3% in a Sexual Orientation Harassment class suffering sexual orientation–related verbal harassment online and in-person; 4.2% in a Verbal SH class suffering verbal sexual comments, being forced to talk about sex, and being shown sexual pictures in-person and online; and 1.9% in a High SH class featured by a high probability of experiencing all online and in-person forms of SH. Biological sex, attitudes, anger, previous violence exposure, and gender stereotyping each predicted at least one latent class. The findings can help inform the design of more effective interventions to prevent SH, highlighting the overlapping nature of in-person and online SH. Prevention efforts designed to address in-person SH need to also consider online SH and vice versa. Clinicians should also consider the risk factors of SH identified in this study in their work identifying at-risk youth. (Publisher abstract provided)