1 In 16 Women Say Their First Experience With Sex Was Not Consensual

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It’s no secret that far too many women experience sexual assault, but a new study is unveiling some seriously unsettling statistics. New research published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that a staggering 1 in 16 women report their first experience with sexual intercourse as rape or under coercion.

Per PBS, to come to these results, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention questioned 13,310 women between the years 2011 and 2017. The women ranged in age from 18 to 44 and were asked about marriage, divorce, family life, reproductive health, and other related topics. They were also asked about sexual intercourse, and among those who responded, 6.5 percent of participants said that their first time having sex was not consensual.

Sadly, this isn’t all that shocking, considering statistics show that nearly 1 in 5 men don’t believe being forced to do something sexual counts as sexual harassment.

What’s more, if the survey had included girls younger than 17 or women older than 45, “certainly that absolute number would be higher,” Laura Hawks, a primary care doctor at Cambridge Healthcare for the Homeless and the study’s lead author, explained. “Quite honestly, that’s the tip of the iceberg.” It should also be noted that women with no history of vaginal intercourse were not included in this sample.

The largest demographic of victims in the new study (39 percent) was between ages 15 and 17, proving once again that teen girls are especially vulnerable to assault. A heartbreaking 7 percent were younger than 10 at the time of their assault, and 29 percent were between ages 11 and 14. Women of color and women in poverty were also at a higher risk of first-time forced sex.

Of course, these experiences have life-altering consequences, which is exactly why the authors felt this study was so important. According to Hawks, this information will be used to better inform physicians about caring for patients who may have experienced a trauma.

They found that women who were forced into sex were more likely to have an abortion, as well as issues ovulating or menstruating. These statistics don’t even consider the emotional and mental trauma that’s often the result of sexual assault. In the CDC’s 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 81 percent of women and 35 percent men reported experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder after a sexual assault.

Finding ways of sexual assault prevention are fraught with complication, but Scott Berkowitz, president of the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, says there are measures we can take. He suggests that parents and caregivers speak openly with their children about personal boundaries, as well as serving as trusted confidants for them to confide in, should something happen.

With more research being done and more victims speaking up about their experiences, we are hopefully inching towards a world where sexual assault is an outlier, not a disturbing norm.

If you have been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673).
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