The Australian Survey on Sex and Relationships 6: Sexual coercion

I’m still blogging the Australian Survey on Sex and Relationships. Because it’s the largest sample and most comprehensive survey involving genuine random sampling of a large population (over 20,000 people) that’s ever been done, anywhere in the world.

I’m also blogging it because the survey’s research team are still wrestling with their website, and this dodgy blog is still the only place you can currently get this information.

Today’s topic is sexual coercion. That includes rape, which in turn includes forcing someone to give or receive oral sex. It also includes things that are more likely to be categorised, in a court of law, as “indecent assault” rather than as rape, for example groping someone’s genitals without their consent or when they’re underage. 

Sexual coercion

  • Overall, 4% of men and 22% of women had ever been forced or frightened into doing something sexual that they did not want: 2% of men and 12% of women reported that this happened before they turned 17
  • Men and women who had been coerced had poorer physical, psychological, and sexual well-being
  • Few people who had been coerced talked to others about their experiences of sexual coercion, and very few had talked to a professional

So one in 25 men, and over one in five women had experienced sexual coercion. One in eight women had experienced sexual coercion while they were below the age of consent in their State or Territory. 

The survey found that people who’d experienced sexual coercion were likely to have lower rates of sexual and relationship satisfaction, and poorer physical and mental health. 

So we’re talking about horrifyingly high rates of coercion, targeted at women and girls. We are also talking about measurable, real long-term damage to women’s health, lives and relationships. The sample size really leaves no room at all for quibbling about whether the numbers are accurate: this is huge and it is real, and it is bloody horrible. 

The interviewers

It’s interesting that so many people were prepared to talk to the survey interviewers about this, though they’d never talked about it to a friend or parent, or a doctor or counsellor. That’s a real tribute to the people who did the interviewing.

There was a team of women, working from Newcastle. They were trained, but they also had amazing people skills. 

They kept a running tally of the number of marriage proposals they got. Not “at all”; “a day”.  

But that’s not so much because of their awesome people skills. That’s more because they were women who rang up over 20,000 strangers and talked to them about sex.

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