Forced sexual contact among teens common, says study
A disturbing new study reveals that 9 percent of youths aged 14 to 21 have coerced or forced someone into sexual contact and spells out a more complicated problem than 'no means no' rhetoric can address.
A new study suggests that 9 percent of youths aged 14 to 21 admitted to some kind of forced sexual contact (using anything from guilt to physical force) and that half of them blamed their victims. And as is generally the case with self-reported findings like this, the true numbers could be larger.Skip to next paragraph
James Norton got his professional start at the Monitor as an online news producer, before moving over to edit international news during the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Since leaving the Monitor in 2004, he has worked as a radio producer, author, and food blogger.
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The study of 1,058 young people, by researchers from the Center for Innovative Public Health Research in San Clemente, Calif. and the University of New Hampshire, also found that perpetrators of sexual coercion and/or violence reported greater exposure to violent X-rated content. This isn't proof of causation, but is certainly intriguing for parents and policymakers who are trying to disentangle the relationship between media consumption and bad (or even criminal) behavior.
That this is important should be self-evident, but the study does a good job of quickly explaining its own significance:
With more than 1 million victims and associated costs of almost $127 billion each year, sexual violence is a significant public health problem. In addition to societal costs, the impact on the individual can be high, including increased rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, physical health problems, and suicidal behavior.
The study also illuminates the way in which victims and perpetrators relate to one another, and how far behind law-enforcement is in terms of addressing the problem of coerced sex and sexual assault:
Three in four victims (73 percent) were a romantic partner. Sixty-six percent of perpetrators reported that no one found out about the perpetration. Contact with the justice system was uncommon: 1 percent of perpetrators reported police contact and 1 percent an arrest.
The results throw yet more fear and chaos into the already dark maelstrom of teenage sexual behavior. The hormones, intense emotion, and sloppily byzantine social relationships of adolescence are pressurized and poisoned by the general atmosphere of "abstinence-only" policies in lieu of education and highly sexualized popular entertainment – which makes coming of age in America about as easy as shooting Category 5 rapids while floating in a frying pan. "No means no" seems simple enough, but in an era when "50 Shades of Gray" passes for a major cultural accomplishment, it's easy to see how the message can get lost or distorted.