From a hastily forced kiss to outright rape, violent or at least coerced sexual contact may be worryingly common among teens and young adults, a new study reports.
Researchers found 9 percent of youths aged 14 to 21 admitted to some kind of forced sexual contact, using tactics from guilt to threats and actual physical force. Half blamed their victims.
Four percent of the more than 1,000 young men and women surveyed admitted to having raped someone else, the researchers report in the American Medical Association journal JAMA Pediatrics.
But most who tried or completed rape said they didn’t use physical force -- 63 percent of those who said they had forced someone to have sex against their will said they used guilt as their main tactic, while 32 percent said they used arguments and other verbal pressure.
And the problem behavior tends to really begin at around age 16, said Michele Ybarra of the Center for Innovative Public Health Research in San Clemente, California and Kimberly Mitchell of the University of New Hampshire.
Ybarra says it is clear that many teens are not getting the message that "no" means no.
“Nine percent of youths reported some type of sexual violence perpetration in their lifetime: 8 percent kissed, touched, or made someone else do something sexual when the youth knew the other person did not want to (ie, forced sexual contact); 3 percent got someone to give into sex when he or she knew the other person did not want to have sex; 3 percent attempted but were not able to force someone to have sex (ie, attempted rape); and 2 percent forced someone to have sex with him or her (ie, completed rape)," Ybarra said.
Youths who reported seeing more violent sex online, in magazines, on television or at the movies were more likely to commit violent sexual acts.
Ybarra said the findings show a lot more effort is needed to prevent sexual assaults. “We, as a society, need to take more responsibility to identify perpetrators and implement programs in schools,” she said. Parents need to teach kids about healthy sex, young people need to speak up when friends describe either being victims or perpetrators of forced sex and schools need more programs to help teach youngsters about acceptable behavior, she says.
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