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Chapter 16

Psychology 2075 Chapter 16: Chapter 16 Sexual Coercion

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Western University
Psychology 2075
William Fisher

Chapter 16 Sexual Coercion SEXUAL ASSAULT • Crimes involving force in sexual relations are more seen as acts of violence and victimization rather than as sex crimes • Before 1983, the Criminal Code had four sections that prohibited forced sexual activity: o Rape, attempted rape, indecent assaults against a female, and indecent assault against a male o Rape was defined as the forced heterosexual intercourse by a man with a woman who was not his wife o Rape complaints that were not made immediately following the attack were invalidated o Majority of complaints did not result in conviction • In 1983, the Criminal Code was amended so that the offences of rape and indecent assault were replaced with three gender-neutral crimes of sexual assault o The differences in these crimes was the amount of force used and the degree of injury sustained (not on the nature of the forced sexual activity) o The purpose of the change was to de-emphasize the sexual nature of the offence, stress their violent nature, encourage victims to report, and improve the court procedure to reduce trauma to victims • Three levels of sexual assault in the CC: o (simple) sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon causing serious injury or endangering the life of the victim or causing bodily harm, and aggravated sexual assault • Sexual assault includes a wide variety of non-consensual sexual experiences • The law is written in gender neutral terms – crucial point is that the act is non-consensual Statistics • 3.4% of women and 1.5% of men reported that they had experienced sexual assault in the previous 12 months o most of the perpetrators were male o most of these sexual assaults were the least serious type of sexual assault o In half of these cases, the victim knew the perpetrator o Few reported to the police • The rate of reported sexual assault has been decreasing since 1990s • Individuals with disabilities are at greater risk of experiencing sexual assault (4x) Sexual Assault of Women by Acquaintances • Often called date rape • More frequent than sexual assault by a stranger • Ontario study found that 48% of university women experienced coerced sexual activity involving pressure or force • Sexual coercion by a dating partner is associated with depression, lower self-esteem, and more negative sexual self-perceptions • Miscommunication may contribute to sexual assault in dating relationships • Two factors explaining why sexually aggressive men misperceive women’s communications: o First, men in general tend to misperceive women’s warmth and friendliness as indicating sexual interest o Second, sexually aggressive men are likely to have a suspicious schema – they generally believe that women do not communicate honestly § These men ignore verbal and nonverbal refusals • Rohypnol (roofies) causes drowsiness or sleep, and the man sexually assaults the woman while she is incapacitated o Also causes women not to remember the event the next day • GHB produces similar effects to alcohol but can cause hallucinations in larger doses and when mixed with alcohol can cause loss of consciousness • Ketamine causes a combination of amnesia and hallucinations • Ecstasy and Foxy Methoxy are also sometimes used as date rape drugs Partner Sexual Assault of Women • The definition of sexual assault in the CC includes non-consensual sex with a spouse, common-law partner, or other intimate partner • Of women who experienced forced intercourse, more than half (51%) were assaulted by an intimate partner (few actually reported it) • The more often a man batters his partner, the more likely it is that he also forces her to have sex The Impact of Sexual Assault on Women • More likely to show several types of psychological distress, including anxiety, depression, suicide ideation and attempts, and PTSD o True for both women assaulted by stranger or acquaintance • Most women have negative psychological reactions immediately following and show recovery within a year • Some women experience self-blame • May experience emotional self-blame (feeling guilty) but not cognitive self-blame (she knows it was not her fault) • People are particularly likely to blame the victim if she voluntarily used alcohol or drugs, even when the perpetrator used force • In about 5% of cases, pregnancy results • Women who have been sexually or physically assaulted visit their physician twice as often per year than non-victimized women • Some can display post-traumatic growth: positive life changes and psychological development following exposure to trauma Causes of Sexual Assault Against Women 1. Psychopathology of sex offenders: holds that sexual assault is an act committed by a psychologically disturbed man 2. Feminist: view sexual assault as the product of gender-role socialization in our culture, which reinforces and legitimizes male aggression 3. Social disorganization: sociologists believe that crime rates, including sexual assault rates, increase after disruption to the social organization of a community – under such conditions, the community cannot enforce its norms against crimes • Cultural values – the more hostility that a culture expressed toward women on questionnaires, the higher the rate of women reporting being sexually coerced • Sexual scripts – adolescents quickly learn society’s expectations about dating and sex through culturally transmitted sexual scripts o Men are oversexed and seen as the sexual aggressor • Early family influences – young men who are sexual aggressors are more likely to have been sexually abused themselves in childhood • The peer group – powerful actor in men’s sexually aggressive behavior • Characteristics of the situation – sexual assault is more likely to occur in secluded places or at parties at which excessive alcohol is used o Another situation is social disorganization; extreme example = war • Miscommunication – don’t ask for consent but try to infer it • Sex and power motives – feminists have stressed that sexual violence is an expression of power and dominance by men over women • Masculinity and men’s attitudes – men who have more hyper masculine attitudes are more likely to have a history of sexual aggression Men Who Are Sexually Aggressive Against Women • Men who commit sexual assault against women vary in their occupation, education, relationship status, previous criminal record, and motivation for committing sexual assault • They do however tend to be repeat offenders • They believe that women are sexual objects, that women are dangerous and deceptive, that the world in general is dangerous, that certain behaviors are uncontrollable in the face of strong urges, and they have a sense of entitlement involving male superiority and control • They are more likely to have had brain injuries as a child – but only 4% of men who have committed sexual assault have had traumatic head injuries • They are characterized by poor inhibition and self-regulation • They lack empathy – fail to understand the suffering that a sexual assault victim experiences • They may have experienced environmental triggers such as being in war • They are more likely themselves to have been victims of child abuse Ethnicity and Sexual Assault Against Women • In English-speaking Caribbean communities, 37% of women and 19% of men reported sexual coercion, compared to 8% of women and 1% of men in Latin American communities o In the English-speaking Caribbean communities, those who had been in Canada longer were more likely to indicate experiencing sexual coercion Sexual Assault Against Men • Sexual assault provisions in the CC apply equally to men • Some believe there are more female sex offenders than indicted by police reports • As with statistics from women, estimates of the number of men who have experienced sexual coercion are higher when the data are based on university and community samples than when based on police reports • New Brunswick study – 19% of men had experienced unwilling sexual activity in the previous year and 9% of women reported using sexual coercion • Some men experience symptoms of PTSD, self-blame, guilt, and shame • Quebec study showed that in 20% of couples, sexual coercion is reciprocal • These acts occur in similar heterosexual relationships (as when men assault women), women use similar strategies to influence their partner (verbal pressure or ignoring requests to stop) • Sexual scripts also play a role – women believe men are always interested in sex • Male victims tend to be blamed more harshly for their victimization and female perpetrators blamed more leniently for their behavior • The great majority of male victims of forced intercourse are sexually assaulted by men Sexual Assault in Prison • 22% of men and 7% of women had been objects of sexual coercion while in prison • Prison staff were perpetrators in 18% of the cases, fellow prisoners the remainder • Majority of men forced into anal sex • Prisoner victims suggested that segregating the most vulnerable people would be the best way to end prison sexual violence o Those who are young, nonviolent, new to prison, and white o Many also favoured conjugal visits Preventing Sexual Assault • Strategies must be aimed at both men and women to eliminated sexual assault of women, or society would need to make a radical change in the way it socializes males • We also need prevention programs aimed at changing attitudes that contribute to sexual assault o Stress the importance of verbal consent and to provide behavioral strategies for doing so • A sexual assault resistance program recently developed by Charlene Senn was designed to enhance women’s ability to physically, verbally, and psychologically resist sexual coercion and assault o It has three 3-hour units o Unit 1 focuses on increasing women’s awareness of personal risk o Unit 2 helps women more quickly admit to themselves when they are in a coercive situation and deal with their emotional barriers to taking action o Unit 3 teaches women about the most successful tactics for resisting sexual coercion in different situations, including self-defence training o Authors have added Unit 4 which provides sexuality education to broaden women’s sexual assertiveness o This program led to significant attitude change, greater confidence, and use of more effective methods of self-defence in hypothetical situations • Research shows that fighting back increases a woman’s likelihood of thwarting a sexual assault attempt • To prevent sexual assault of men, we need to combat the cultural stereotype that
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