The #MeToo movement has been a catalyst for conversation about sexual consent and the prevalence of violence against women. A new study published by JAMA Internal Medicine confirms that the numbers are just as alarming among everyday women. According to that study, which surveyed over 13,000 women age 18-44, roughly 1 in 16 women said their first sexual experience was through rape. The women on average reported being around 15 years old at the time, and had a partner that was years older.

The numbers are even more alarming when you drill down further. More than 26% of study participants said they were physically threatened during the encounter and 46% recalled being physically held down. Over half (56%) said they were verbally pressured into having sex, and 16% said the person threatened to end the relationship if they refused to consent to sex. 

“Any sexual encounter (with penetration) that occurs against somebody’s will is rape. If somebody is verbally pressured into having sex, it’s just as much rape,” said the study’s lead author Laura Hawks, an internist and Harvard Medical School researcher.

Previous studies have shown that Black women are at an even higher risk of experiencing sexual violence at a young age. According to Now.org, over eighteen percent of African American women will experience sexual assault in her lifetime, and this percentage only reflects those who report the incident. This was especially apparent when the Surviving R. Kelly documentary became a national conversation. The night of its premiere, The National Sexual Assault Hotline received 27 percent more calls than it did on the same day during the previous week.

If you’re seeking help dealing with sexual assault or abuse, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673), where trained professionals can provide you with support, information, advice, or a referral for therapy. You can also get 24/7 help online by visiting online.rainn.org.


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