Nearly one in 10 people age 21 or younger reported perpetrating some type of coercive or forced sexual violence during their lifetime, and perpetrators reported more exposure to violent X-rated material, according to a study.
Sexual violence is a public health problem, with more than 1 million victims and associated costs of almost $127 billion each year, according to background information in the study, which was published Oct. 7 on the website of JAMA Pediatrics. Sexual violence can start in adolescence, but estimates of adolescents who perpetrate sexual violence are lacking, according to the authors.
Michele L. Ybarra, MPH, PhD, of the Center for Innovative Public Health Research in San Clemente, Calif., and Kimberly J. Mitchell, PhD, of the University of New Hampshire in Durham, N.H., estimated adolescent sexual violence perpetration and reported details of the experience after analyzing data for 1,058 young people between the ages of 14 and 21 in the Growing Up with Media study. They focused on sexual violence as coercive and forced sexual behavior.
Of youths in the study, 9% (108) reported perpetrating some type of sexual violence in their lifetime: 8% (84) kissed, touched or made someone else do something sexual knowing the other person did not want to (forced contact); 3% (33) got someone to have sex when they knew the other person did not want to (coercive sex); 3% (43) attempted but were not able to force someone to have sex (attempted rape); and 2% (18) forced someone to have sex (completed rape).
The most common age at the first perpetration of sexual violence was 16, and males were overwhelmingly more likely to have their first episode at age 15 or younger. Perpetrators of sexual violence also tended to report more frequently being exposed to media that depicted sexual and violent situations, although the results were not always statistically significant, according to the study.
Most young people who reported trying to force or forcing someone to have sex reported using coercive tactics such as arguing, pressuring someone, getting angry or making someone feel guilty more commonly than using threats or physical force. Most often, the victims were a romantic partner, and 50% of perpetrators said the victim was responsible for the sexual violence. Most perpetrators also said no one had found out about the incidents, meaning contact with the justice system was uncommon, the study results indicated.
Researchers said further studies should be conducted to replicate results.
Certainly, however, links between perpetration and violent sexual media are apparent, suggesting a need to monitor adolescents consumption of this material, particularly given todays media saturation among the adolescent population, the authors wrote.
Because victim blaming appears to be common while perpetrators experiencing consequences is not, there is urgent need for high-school (and middle-school) programs aimed at supporting bystander intervention.
Study abstract: http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1748355