Nearly one in 10 young people between the ages of 14 and 21 has committed an act of sexual violence, a new study of over 1,000 young internet users reveals.
Researchers used data collected online for the Growing Up With Media study in 2010 and 2011, from youngsters who still lived at home at least half of the time and had been connected to the internet for a minimum of six months. They were asked some shocking questions.
Had they ever tried but failed to get someone to have sex with them, when they knew the other person did not want to? Had they ever made someone who didn't want to have sex with them have sex? Had they ever pressured someone they knew didn't want to have sex with them to give in?
Remember, the surveyed kids are all between the ages of 14 and 21. Among those, four percent (39 boys and 10 girls) reported they had either attempted or committed rape. Eight percent said they forced kissing and touching, two percent reported coercive sex, and another three percent said they had attempted to rape someone. The most common age at which a youngster commits an act of sexual violence is 16, the study reveals. Boys were more likely to have their first incident even earlier, at age 15 or before.
By the time the youngsters got to ages 18 and 19, there was a larger percent of female perpetrators. Boys had the tendency to victimize younger girls, while girls opt to prey on older males more often. Unsurprisingly, victims were most likely to be a romantic partner. Two out of three perps said nobody found out about the crime they committed, and there were no consequences.
The research team writes: "Because victim blaming appears to be common while perpetrators experiencing consequences is not, there is urgent need for high school (and middle school) programs aimed at supporting bystander intervention."
What's To Blame For This Culture Of Sexual Violence?
The survey shows that a third of young perps pressured someone else into sexual contact by arguing with the person, while two thirds either got angry or made the other person feel guilty. Five percent said that threatened their victim, and eight percent actually used physical force. In 15 percent of cases, alcohol played a role.
How come our young people think these behaviors are acceptable? Study co-author Michele Ybarra, who is also president and research director of the Center for Innovative Public Health Research in San Clemente, CA, says:
Is online porn to blame? Well, the study shows youngsters who committed sexual violence or attempted to do so were five times more likely to have been exposed (or, perhaps more likely to have sought out!) X-rated media in which a person was physically hurt during sex.
So yes, porn plays a role in sexual violence. But isn't blaming porn a little bit like blaming the victim, when you look a bit closer? Sexual violence is nothing new, and it is extremely common. The internet is something new, and perhaps admitting you've raped someone or tried to do so anonymously without a care in the world is new too. Instead of blaming porn, we should perhaps simply blame the perpetrators.
Yes, a world without online porn would be a better world. But what we really need to do is raise our sons and daughters to realize, deep inside, that it's OK to say "no" to sex, that it's OK to physically hurt someone if they try to rape you, and that it's OK to report sexual violence to the police.
We need to raise our sons and daughters to realize that no intoxicated person can ever consent to sex, that it is never OK to talk someone into doing something they don't want to do, and that rape is a horrible crime and not something that will make them look like cool gangsters.