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For 7% of US Women, First Sex Experience Isn't Voluntary

Forced or coerced intercourse in early teens could have long-term health repercussions
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 17, 2019 12:27 AM CDT
In this Jan. 20, 2018, file photo, a marcher carries a sign with the popular Twitter hashtag #MeToo used by people speaking out against sexual misconduct as she takes part in a women's march in Seattle.   (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

(Newser) – The first sexual experience for 1 in 16 US women was forced or coerced intercourse in their early teens, encounters that for some may have had lasting health repercussions, a new study suggests. The experiences amount to rape, the authors say, although they relied on a national survey that didn't use the word in asking women about forced sex. Almost 7% of women surveyed said their first sexual intercourse experience was involuntary; it happened at age 15 on average and the man was often several years older, per the AP. Almost half of those women who said intercourse was involuntary said they were held down, and slightly more than half of them said they were verbally pressured to have sex against their will. The results were published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The new study is an analysis of responses from 13,310 adult women who participated in nationally representative US government health surveys from 2011-2017, before the Me Too movement. "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," says lead author Dr. Laura Hawks, a Harvard Medical School researcher. In the years after coerced or forced sex, affected women had more sex partners, unwanted pregnancies and abortions, and reproductive health problems than women whose first sexual experience wasn't forced. Other studies have found long-term effects of sexual assault may include social isolation, feelings of powerlessness, stigmatization, poor self-image, and risky behavior, which all may increase risks for mental health problems, a journal editorial said. (Read more sex stories.)

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