Heather Hlavka, a sociologist at Marquette University, analyzed interviews with 100 girls between ages three and 17 who may have experienced sexual assault.
Overwhelmingly, their accounts indicated that sexual violence had been normalized in their communities. They considered harassment an everyday part of life rather than a criminal act, the Huffington Post reported.
The study identifies several common reasons why girls do not report their assaults, including shame, fear of retribution and mistrust of authority.
The most alarming conclusion, however, is that young women "regard sexual violence against them as normal."
Moreover, the girls interviewed believed that men "can't help it" and perceived "everyday harassment and abuse as normal male behavior."
Once sexual harassment is "normalized," reporting it becomes a "big thing" likely to be perceived as an overreaction.
Hlavka also found that when young women expect adult men to act inappropriately, it leads to a community-wide distrust of male authority figures, such as police officers, to whom sexual assault should be reported.
The girls whose interviews Hlavka considered also assumed that other young women would regard them as "sluts" and "whores" if they disclosed that they were assaulted. This paints a grim picture of the state of sexual assault reduction in many American communities.