Beyond Traditional Definitions of Assault: Expanding Our Focus to Include Sexually Coercive Experiences
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Traditionally, studies examining sexual assault have not considered experiences of coerced consensual sex. This study sought to compare women who endorsed experiences of coerced sexual intercourse with women who reported more traditionally defined experiences of sexual assault and with a group of women who had experienced neither sexual assault nor coercion. The authors hypothesized that women who had experienced sexual coercion would show symptom elevations on a measure of interpersonal trauma-related symptoms that were more consistent with sexual assault victims than with non-victims. Among a sample of undergraduate college women (N=300), women who endorsed coerced sexual intercourse (8.7%) were compared to women endorsing experiences meeting the legal definition of rape (21%), women endorsing childhood sexual abuse (11.7%), women reporting both rape and childhood sexual abuse (6.0%), and women reporting no victimization experiences (52.7%). Analysis of the Trauma Symptom Inventory (TSI; Briere, 1995) clinical subscales confirmed that women who reported coerced sexual intercourse endorsed symptoms levels more consistent with the adult rape group than with the non-victim group.
KeywordsSexual assault Rape Sexual coercion
Thanks to Nathan Williams and Bill Levine of the Department of Psychology at the University of Arkansas for their willingness to provide feedback on earlier versions of this manuscript.
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