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Youth Survey Finds Post-Election Spike in Bullying, Harassment

The 2016 presidential election had a "troubling" impact on America's youth, according to a new survey of more than 50,000 young people ages 13-18. The survey, conducted by LGBTQ-rights organization Human Rights Campaign, included respondents representing a diversity in gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity and religious background.

Seventy percent of those surveyed reported witnessing bullying, hate messages or harassment during or since the November election. Of those who witnessed such behavior, 79 percent said it occurred more frequently following the start of the campaign.

"We're grateful that so many young people trusted us with their stories, and heartbroken by how profoundly the political climate is affecting them -- especially youth of color, LGBTQ youth, and youth targeted because of their faith," HRC Foundation Senior Research Manager Gabe Murchison said.

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Among the 70 percent of young people who reported witnessing bullying, hate messages or harassment, a majority said the troubling behavior was motivated by bias. Seventy percent had witnessed incidents motivated by race or ethnicity, 63 percent by sexual orientation, 59 percent by immigration status and 55 percent by gender.

"We are calling on politicians to explicitly denounce bias and reject support from hate groups, and all adults to take responsibility for the safety and well-being of our young people," Murchison said. "Young people who participated in our survey told us they need three things in the wake of this election: their identities and fears taken seriously, adults to stand up against bias and harassment, and a chance to get involved politically to ensure that our country's leaders are committed to the safety and equality of all."

The HRC report laying out the survey results included a number of anonymous write-in responses from youth across the country. An 18-year-old student from Illinois, whose name was not published to protect her privacy, described her experience witnessing harassment motivated by bias:

"People on my school's bus were talking badly about the LGBT community and Black people, as well as a specific male-identifying friend of mine who wore heels, calling him a 'tranny' and 'f-ggot' and 'n-word.' They also related it to the election, stating that Trump is going to help so that 'the f-ggots in the locker rooms can't be there to be pedophiles and stare at us.'"

RELATED: Bullying, Harassment Remain 'Significant Problem' in US Schools

Eliza Byard, executive director of LGBTQ youth advocacy organization GLSEN, said the results of HRC's report should "make all adults ashamed."

"Students in this country are living in heightened fear since the election. What does that say about us as a nation?"

Byard said that while there has been progress in anti-bullying measures in the nation's schools, it's not enough.

"Every percentage point of progress represents a precious life saved or a student's hopes lifted," she said. "We must not sacrifice that progress to political interests. We must continue to throw open the 'great vaults of opportunity' that Dr. King dreamed of as our legacy for every child. We know what to do. We need to continue to put that knowledge into action in schools across the country."

If you are a young person in crisis, feeling suicidal, or in need of a safe and judgment-free place to talk, call the Trevor Project's Trevor Lifeline: 866-488-7386.

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