The study of more than 1,000 young people aged 14 to 21 found that 9 percent reported forcing or pressuring a peer to engage in sexual activity. They admitted to coercive sex, sexual assault and rape, most often involving a romantic partner.
Perpetrators were five times more likely to have been exposed to X-rated media that showed a person being physically hurt during sex, the study found.
“From a public health perspective, the violent pornography is something we need to be concerned about in terms of our young people,” said study co-author Michele Ybarra, president and research director of the Center for Innovative Public Health Research in San Clemente, Calif.
The young people also recounted a disturbing lack of consequences for their actions.
The study, published Oct. 7 in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, involved a national sample of nearly 1,100 young people and focused specifically on perpetration of coercive and forced sexual behavior.
Three out of four victims were romantic partners. Acts of sexual violence reported by young people included:
• 8 percent kissed, touched or made someone else do something sexual knowing the other person did not want to;
• 3 percent coerced someone to have sex when they knew the other person did not want to;
• 3 percent attempted but were not able to force someone to have sex; and
• 2 percent forced someone to have sex.
Perpetrators commonly are 16 years old when they commit their first act of sexual violence, but boys were overwhelmingly more likely to have their first episode at 15 years of age or younger, the survey found.
One-third of perpetrators said they argued with or pressured the person, while nearly two-thirds said they got angry or made the person feel guilty. Five percent of perpetrators reported using threats and 8 percent reported using physical force. Alcohol was involved in 15 percent of situations.
These tactics work because children are not getting enough education at home or at school regarding sexual relationships, said Susan Tortolero, a professor of public health at the University Of Texas School Of Public Health, in Houston.
Dr. Angela Diaz, director of Mount Sinai Hospital’s Adolescent Health Center, in New York City, said sex education can teach potential perpetrators to respect others’ bodies and accept “no” for an answer, and can also teach potential victims to better recognize the tactics used to coerce sex.
“They may say, ‘Unless you have sex with me, I’m going to go have sex with someone else,’” Diaz said. “Young people have to learn that if their partner says that, maybe they’re better off if they do go somewhere else.”
Article published in U.S. News and World Report/HealthDay/Written by Dennis Thompson