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Health & Parenting

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1 in 10 Young Adults Admits to Sexual Violence

Violent pornography may be partially to blame, researcher says


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.

"It suggests there might be different reasons and ways in which males become perpetrators that are different from females," Ybarra said.

Teens more often used coercive tactics rather than physical violence to force sex upon another person.

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.

"In this country, we aren't talking at all about healthy sexual relationships," Tortolero said. "Most of the time, we're just telling kids not to have sex. People don't know how to talk about sex, so almost always people are having sex without explicit consent. If we could teach kids how to give explicit consent, then they might be more protected."

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."

Some focus also needs to be placed on the role of violent pornography, Ybarra said.

She said pornography itself does not seem to play a role. Comparable numbers of perpetrators and non-perpetrators said they had watched non-violent pornography.

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