What Is Sexual Violence and Have You Been Affected By It?

Sexual violence is a terrible thing and something that, in a perfect world, no one would have to deal with. Unfortunately, as you know, we don’t live that world and a recent study reminded us all of that. This sad and scary study, found in the JAMA Pediatric reports, states that one in ten American teens and young adults have committed sexual violence. The statistics are unsettling, to say the least.

Before we go more into more detail on this study, let’s address what sexual violence actually is.  A lot of people have the idea that sexual violence is only about rape – forcing someone to have sex against their will. But rape is not the only sexually violent crime out there and, in fact, sexual violence doesn’t even have to be a physical act. Sexual violence is any kind of sexual activity where consent is not freely given and it refers to any time any person feels forced or manipulated into doing something they never wanted to do in the first place.

According to OASIS (an organization called Opposing Assault with Service, Information and Shelter), sexual violence consists of rape, sexual assault, incest, sexual exploitation, unwanted or inappropriate sexual contact (this could mean something as simple as touching), sexual harassment, exposure, threats, stalking/cyberstalking and peeping. Statutory rape is also considered sexual violence, whether the person younger than the age of consent wants it to happen or not.

Make no mistake: committing any of these acts of sexual violence is absolutely a crime. As OASIS states, “It is not motivated by uncontrollable sexual desire. Perpetrators of SV use sex as a weapon to dominate and hurt others.”

One of the scariest things about sexual violence is that a lot of people who have experienced it are too afraid to tell others what happened to them. Victims often feel ashamed, as if they did something wrong, when in fact they have absolutely nothing to feel ashamed about. Victims might feel embarrassed or scared to tell people because they don’t want to be accused of lying, which is why it’s so important to always take these claims very seriously. In some cases, victims don’t speak up as a way of dealing with their assault – they don’t want to think about it, so they try to act like it never happened.


No means no, no matter what. | Source: ShutterStock

This new study sheds some light on how sexual violence affects teens and the results are pretty terrifying. 1, 058 teens and young adults ages 14 to 21 participated in the study and, as I stated before, it was discovered that one in ten young Americans have committed an act of sexual violence. To break it down further, eight percent of those studied said they had kissed, touched or “made someone else do something sexual” when they “knew the person did not want to.” Three percent verbally coerced someone into having sex, three percent tried to use physical violence to force someone into having sex and two percent committed completed rape.

As Slate pointed out, we’ve known for a really long time that sexual violence is a problem with teens and young adults. I think anyone who watches the news or reads the newspapers can figure that out for themselves. So while these results aren’t exactly shocking, that doesn’t make them any less devastating.

I think the scariest part of this study is that in every case of sexual violence, the perpetrator is someone the victim knew. It sometimes almost seems less alarming to think of a perpetrator as someone you don’t know, a random stranger. It’s much more scary to think of a perpetrator as someone you went to school with (which was the case 52 percent of the time) or someone you met online (two percent of the cases). And it’s even worse to think of that perpetrator as someone you thought you could trust, like a boyfriend or girlfriend – which made up three out of four perpetrators.

What else did they find out about those committing acts of sexual violence? For one thing, most of the perpetrators were 16-years-old when they committed their first act of sexual violence. Unsurprisingly, boys were more like to be the perpetrators, but that doesn’t mean girls weren’t also. It was also found that, in most cases, the perpetrator was white from a higher-income family.

The tactics used to commit these acts are, unsurprisingly, alarming. 63 percent of perpetrators guilted their victims into it, 32 percent argued or pressured the victim into it, 15 percent used alcohol as a weapon, eight percent used physical force and five percent threatened to use physical force. As for the victims? 80 percent were female, 18 percent were male and five percent were transgender.

physical violence

Physical force is, in many cases, not even used. | Source: ShutterStock

The study also found a correlation between pornography use and sexual violence: the teens who watched porn were more likely to commit sexually violent acts, but those more likely to be offenders were those who watched violent porn that “depicted one person hurting another person while doing something sexual.”

And what ever happened to the teens and young adults who admitted to committing these sexually violent acts? In most cases, nothing. 66 percent of the time, “no one found out” about what had happened. Possibly even more disturbing than that statistic is that 29 percent of of perpetrators were caught but not punished. Eleven percent “got in trouble with their parents,” which doesn’t sound like nearly enough of a punishment and only two percent (one perpetrator found by the study) were arrested. And for statistics that might make you feel sick, seven percent of offenders said they felt “not at all responsible” for what they had done, 48 percent felt “somewhat” responsible and 50 percent felt that their victim was “completely” responsible. Only 35 percent said they felt “completely” responsible.

Reading these facts makes me feel miserable, confused and angry, to put it simply. If any of this ever happens to you, I urge you to report the issue and talk to someone about it. Keeping these things bottled up can never do any good – just look at the recent discussion about Chris Brown’s statutory rape case. Being a victim of sexual violence is never your fault or something you should feel ashamed of. It is not okay that over 60 percent of perpetrators never had to deal with the consequences of what they did (besides psychologically, of course).

A lot of people assume that if nothing physically violent happened, it wasn’t sexual violence – which is probably why so many of these perpetrators studied felt that they weren’t responsible for what they did. This assumption needs to stop. Just because physical force wasn’t used doesn’t mean you aren’t a victim of sexual violence. This study is proof of that.

What do you think of the results of this study? Are you surprised? Have you ever been or known anyone who was a victim of sexual violence? Have you ever known someone who committed sexual violence? Tell us in the comments.


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  • alyssajade98

    When I was about 7 my cousin was 12 and he touched me in my vagina and my breast and sometimes sucked on these areas also. He usually did it when I was sleeping or so he thought. I’m not sure if he ever penetrated me with his penis while I was sleeping and I can’t really remember much of the acts. I do remember sometimes when he sucked on my breasts I enjoyed it and would pretend to be asleep. Remembering I was only 7, was that sexual violence?

  • Tom’sGurl

    This is such a dumb article!
    Geez the author is an idiot.
    What she is talking about is SEXUAL VIOLATION
    But instead she has used the term sexual violence. No wonder she has confused so many.
    Isn’t there a way of screening authors so only the best get selected??
    Jessica Booth, there is a huge and enormous difference between VIOLATION and VIOLENCE.
    If you want to drive home a point and not be seen as an embarrassment please use the correct terminology.

    I wonder if you will reply Jessica or perhaps, one of your sycophants or sidekicks will make a comment…again perhaps a brainless, illogical one too!!

    • Jessica Booth

      Just because you’ve never heard of sexual violence doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I hate to tell you, but you’re the only one who looks like an idiot here. I know this might seem difficult, but go to Google, or any search engine for that matter, and type in sexual violence – you’ll see that this is a legitimate term that means exactly what I said it means and not something I made up. Here’s only one of thousands: http://oasisinc.org/what-is-sexual-violence/ You might want to check it out and educate yourself before you try to insult people you don’t even know. Just a thought.

      • Fleur

        JESSICA BOOTH – Common sense ! That should be the key.


        Sexual Violation is about the other many things you have described that DOES NOT INVOLVE FORCE OR VIOLENCE.

        Tom’sGirl is right. Those two terms are so different. I think we have to be very careful and precise when defining such acts. There has to be clarity when describing such criminal acts.

        Please dont lump everything together!

        Rape is definitely sexual violence but when you bring in things like cyber stalking, harrassment, exposure, peeping etc, such things DONT INVOLVE VIOLENCE and hence the term VIOLATION is more appropriate.

        Just because there is a website doesn’t make what they say right. We need to educate them to define things more precisely.

        I think you are totally wrong calling the one who posted those comments, an idiot. You seem to lack the maturity to accept fault and to be corrected.

        Sorry, but I prefer the distinction and the use of those 2 seperate terms SEXUAL VIOLENCE AND SEXUAL VIOLATION. Very different meanings indeed and more precise I must add.

      • VeryMuchInLurve

        Jessica Booth, just read the comments “annonymous” has posted. You can see how un informed she is and how you are confusing the issue even more. Also it seems she is just dumb and hence I would agree she would be a perfect one for exploitation. You have to be dumb ad an idiot to be exploited. You have a responsibility when you produce such articles that your article will educate and prepare those who are easily exploited.
        You will notice that the ones who have the issues with sexual violation either put themselves at risk or are just too stupid to know they have gone into something that no sensible person would.
        Prevention I believe is better than cure.

  • emilyann

    A lot of people assume that if nothing physically violent happened, it wasn’t sexual violence – which is probably why so many of these perpetrators studied felt that they weren’t responsible for what they did. This assumption needs to stop. Just because physical force wasn’t used doesn’t mean you aren’t a victim of sexual violence. This study is proof of that.

    Read more: http://www.gurl.com/2013/10/09/what-is-sexual-violence-have-you-been-affected-teens-young-adults/#ixzz2iDJoiyRQ

    I have just copied and pasted this part because of a comment I read on here.

    Now there are a few things that need to be clarified and people need t have a clear idea of.

    a) If there is NO violence, force, physical abuse, drugs, alcohol, coercion then How can one use the term “sexual violence”
    You may bring the example of statutory rape but many will disagree because in here you make a huge assumption that a 13 or 14 yr old CANNOT give consent even if the sexual engagement was cordial, initiated and pursued by the younger one and even though the sexual act was agreed upon, enjoyed and no harm came from this engagement.
    I dont think and I am sure many others will think the same as me, that such a realtionship could be considered rape. This is really stupid. 13 and 14 yr olds can determine and agree and consent to have sex if they so desire.

    b) Paedophilia as a term must ONLY be used when there is prepubertal sex. This is absolutely wrong to have sex with a prepubertal child.
    Prepubertal children are NOT ready for sex and hence it is wrong. So the term MUST be used in the right context and not used loosely.
    Once someone hits puberty then using age as a cut off ( as in consent or legal age!!))is not the right thing to do. I disagree with the law. Reaching puberty is NATURE’s signal that you are ready to have sex and have an offspring. So who are we to then force people to behave against nature?? Stupid isnt it??
    Remember the age of consent varies with the different countries. Some countries dont even consider post pubertal sex (with a big age difference between partners) as a criminal act.

    c) Any thing sexual without consent SHOULD NOT be included under the term “sexual violence” if NO violence is used.
    In such situations the terms “sexual inappropriateness” or “sexual impropriety” or “sexual misconduct” or “sexual harrassment” or “sexual blackmail” etc etc can be used.
    Use of words like sexual violence when NO violence has been used then becomes disregarded or not taken seriously. I hope that we are intelligent enough to appropriately define such events and with the right and correct terminology.

  • anonymous45

    I think I have been a victim of sexual exploitation-I don’t remember most of what had happened, plus I’m not 100% sure about it. Which is why I never went to the cops.
    I e-mailed the website I found the video on, but the website’s owner(s) never responded back to my message.

  • anonymous73

    It’s sickening.
    I believe I was a victim of sexual exploitation-I don’t remember most of what happened-I even e-mailed the website too, but no response from the owners of the website.
    Even if I do tell the police(which I still haven’t, because it happened quite a while ago and I wasn’t 100% sure of what had happened to me & that it had happened to me/maybe I was in denial about it?) and they catch the guys, maybe they’d arrest them, put them in jail, but not get a life sentence in jail.

  • Kitten

    Julia: “But you also say that even if there is NO VIOLENCE and sex is consensual and enjoyed and accepted without coercion this is still called ‘sexual violence'”

    I read the article, and saw NO place in which this was said. Copy and paste the part of the article that said this. I’m really curious to see what you saw.

    • Cassie

      “Kitten” read the second paragraph.
      It is clear straightforward english. I dont need to cut and paste.

      There is such contradiction in terms in this article!!

      Read what you want, make of it what you want. These articles are so crazy trying to make all girls paranoid instead of just instilling some logic in their minds.

      I think we just have too much time on our hands and like idle minds, we become devil’s workshops generating such garbage instead of productive stuff.

      I guess someone has to be kept in employment.

  • Julia

    So let me get this right. You have used the term “violence” in this.

    But you also say that even if there is NO VIOLENCE and sex is consensual and enjoyed and accepted without coercion this is still called “sexual violence”

    How do you propose to sell this to anyone?

    Are you trying to instill some form of guilt conscience so that teens who have engaged in such sexual relationships become psychologically scarred and confused?

    Does any of this actually fit the meaning of violence??

    Do people have no other work other than to sit down and coin new words for some silly dictionary?

    You are just one crazy bunch!

    • Jessica Booth

      Did you read the post at all, Julia? Sexual violence is when sex is NOT consensual. That is exactly why it’s called sexual violence. If sex is consensual then obviously it’s not considered sexual violence.

      • anonymous6821

        I think I may have been affected by sexual exploitation before. But because I wasn’t 100% sure what had happened, I never told the police. I e-mailed the website I found the video on…however the website’s owners never e-mailed me back.
        (sorry I’m replying to a comment. It wouldn’t let me post under the comment button earlier).