Sexual Aggression and Dating Violence
Dating violence has been defined as violence committed or occurring within a dating relationship (Black 2006), a study on dating violence victimization among students in grades 7 to 12 during a 18-month in 1994 to 1995. The prevalence of physical and psychological dating violence was estimated at 12% and 20%, respectively. In addition to the risk of injury and death, both perpetrators and victims of dating violence were more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior, unhealthy eating behaviors, substance use, and suicidal thoughts and attempts. Dating violence victimization could lead to intimate partner violence of IPV victimization in adulthood, especially among women. Statistics revealed that approximately 5.3 million IPV incidents had been inflicted among adult women in the United States, resulting in roughly 2 million injuries and 1,300 deaths. Findings suggested that physical dating violence or PDV victimization affected a substantial number of high school students at a ratio of 1 in 11 during the 12-month study period preceding the study. This ratio was equivalent to 1.5 million high school students throughout the United States. The prevalence was, furthermore, associated with risk behaviors in both dating parties. The respondents’ self-reported risk behaviors consisted of sexual intercourse with at least one partner in the three-month period prior to the survey; attempted suicide; smoking; heavy drinking of five or more alcoholic drinks in a row; and physical fighting (Black).
Results showed that 8.9% males and 8.8% females of the 14,965 students surveyed experienced PDV in the previous year (Black 2006). The results also indicated that these students were more likely to engage in four of the five risk behaviors mentioned. Prevalence was likewise greater among Blacks at 13.9% than whites at 7% and Hispanics at 9.3%, among Black males at 13.7% than among white males at 6.6%; among Black females at 14% than white females at 7.5% and Hispanic females at 9.2%. Of the five risk behaviors, the highest were active sexual intercourse at 34.3% and physical fighting at 33% (Black).
Dating violence and sexual coercion have been perceived as serious problems among adolescents and young adults (Forbes et al. 2005). Dating violence develops out of a combination of interactions, through which the aggressor determines the cause and points to it as provoking the violence. The cause can be anything from slight to serious and reasonable or not, according to the view of the perpetrator, the victim or an observer. The gender of the aggressor and gender of the observer appeared to be important factors in determining and justifying dating aggression. A study suggested that men were more accepting of both physical and psychological aggression in dating relationships than women were (Foebes).
Evolutionary psychology has argued that men are more upset by their partner’s sexual infidelity than women are but that women are more upset by their partner’s emotional infidelity than are men. It identified jealousy as the proximal cause of relationship violence. It would, then, expect men to engage in more frequent and severe relationship violence in response to sexual infidelity than to emotional infidelity. In contract, women would resort to more frequent and severe relationship violence on account of emotional infidelity (Forbes et al.).
Both male and female subjects of the study justified hitting or getting even following a sexual betrayal in one of the two partners more than in a non-sexual betrayal (Forbes et al. 2005).. The male subjects said they would express anger or break up in such events. The female subjects would justify counterproductive anger after a discovery of a sexual rather than a non-sexual betrayal. Both men and women surveyed justified the betrayed woman as possessing the greater right to hit than a betrayed man had. It meant that they physical aggression by women as more acceptable than that by men. At the same time, it meant that they saw the betrayal of women as more serious than that of men. The results pointed to the significance of the gender factor in the aggressor as more justifiable and acceptable in physical aggression than the perceived seriousness of betrayal. The analysis of the counterproductive anger factor in women suggested a gender bias whereby women saw their anger as more justified than the anger of men. It also revealed that women saw their anger in response to a sexual betrayal as more justified than that of men. These surveyed women, however, did not think that such betrayal should not make a difference in the justification of the anger for men (Forbes et al.).
Most researches have focused on the potential for physical and psychological harm to girls when dating (Howard 2003). But prevalence rates for the physical and psychological victimization among boys have been reported. Furthermore, boys are less inclined to report on their violent interactions with intimate partners who victimize them. Current rates may also represent an underestimate of their experiences. Studies on the relationship between gender and dating violence established several risk factors among boys. One was that physical dating violence among adolescent boys was associated with same-gender sexual partners, forced sex, and threats of physical violence. Adolescent boys or males who dated someone older were more likely to be the victims of dating violence (Howard).
A study attempted to fill the gap by examining physical dating victimization among adolescent boys in the U.S., using the 1999 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (Howard 2003). Findings showed that boys were victims of dating violence in equivalent amounts as girls. They were hit, slapped or physical hurt on purpose. The prevalence of physical dating violence inflicted on them also increased dramatically in a higher grade school level. Those in high school experienced dating violence twice as much as those in the 9th to the 11th grades. The prevalence was also highest for Blacks and boys ethnically categorized as “other” thrice as much. Their experience of dating violence was also accompanied by, or associated with, risk behaviors. These included fighting, gun carrying, drinking alcohol, smoking, using cocaine and inhalants, and sexual intercourse, often unprotected and with multiple partners. Boys with emotional problems of sadness or hopelessness or thoughts of suicide were also more likely to suffer from dating violence. The prevalence was higher for boys with more than one sexual partner, who engaged in unprotected sex and who experienced hopelessness. Findings suggested that physical dating among boys could be more serious than thought. These emphasized that current failure in recognizing this had hampered an understanding of the psychosocial factors, which have placed them at risk (Howard).
An urban study conducted on a racially and ethnically diverse sample of 14-23-year-old females reflected that 30% f them were subjected to unwanted sexual experience in the previous year (Thomas 2005). In the rest, 13% reported rape or attempted rape, 10% verbal sexual coercion, and 6% unwanted touching. Among the risk factors were past sexual victimization as an adolescent, past physical or verbal aggression from partners, going to the perpetrator’s home to be with him or her alone, and a low level of romantic involvement in the most recent relationships. At increased risk were females who dated the perpetrator frequently, pressured to drink alcohol, and who had a greater age difference between them. Subjects of the study were 686 ethnically diverse women, who were 42% Black, 31% Puerto Rican, 17% Dominican and 10% white. They were not married or living with a partner, not pregnant and had dated at least once in the past year. Compared to those who had no unwanted sexual experiences, those who experienced mild to moderate physical or severe aggression had a higher likelihood of reporting rate or attempted rape. Past victimization as an adolescent appeared to increase the likelihood. This was most often by visiting the perpetrator’s home to alone with him. The higher she viewed her romantic relationship with him, the lower the chances of rape or attempted rape. The lower she rated the importance of her ethnic identity, the higher the chances of her reporting the experience. Those who experienced mild to moderate verbal aggression or severe verbal aggression faced a higher risk of reporting the coercion than those who did not experience the aggression. Facing higher risks were women who were sexually victimized as adolescents, had dated the perpetrator six or more times, and had a wide age difference with the partner. The study identified several risk factors associated with an increased likelihood of rape, attempted rape and verbal sexual coercion. It also called the attention of young women on how to respond to or manage the verbal or psychological abuse as well as other types of coercive behaviors of their dating partners (Thomas).
One more danger young people confront in dating and dating violence is the risk of sexually transmitted diseases or STDs. A third of surveyed women participants in the 1999 and 2001 Youth Risk Behavior Surveys were sexually or physically hurt by a date (Hollander 2005). The respondents were sexually active women from Massachusetts. Of the 33% tested for an STD, 5% were diagnosed as infected. Compared with non-abused women, those reporting only sexual violence appeared more likely to have been tested for STDs, including HIV. The odds of contracting an STD or HIV appeared higher for women who experienced both types of violence (Hollander).
Analysts said that women who were sexually abused by someone outside of a relationship could lead them to seek testing (Hollander 2005). In contrast, those who experienced only physical violence could be chronically exposed to coercive sex, which they could not perceive as abusive. These analysts said that women who experienced both types of violence would probably contact medical settings or institutions and the ones likeliest to report abuse (Hollander).
Black, M.C. (2006). Physical dating violence among high school students – United States, 2003.
A pages. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report: U.S. Government Printing Office
Forbes, G.B. et al. (2005). Perceptions of dating violence following a sexual or nonsexual betrayal of trust. 12 pages. Sex Roles: a Journal of Research: Plenum Publishing Corporation
Hollander, D. (2005). Teenagers, dating violence and disease. 2 pages. Perspective on Sexual and Reproductive Health: The Alan Guttmacher Institute
Howard, D.E. (2003). Psychosocial factors associated with adolescent boys’ report of dating violence. 11 pages. Adolescence: Libra Publishers
Thomas. J. (2005). Young women victimized in adolescence are at risk of further sexual violence. 2 pages. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health: The Alan Guttmacher Institute
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