One in 16 women in the US are raped when they lose their virginity, study finds
- In Harvard University surveys of over 3,000 women, 6.5% said the were forced to have sex for the first time
- This included both physical and verbal coercion
- Translated to the whole American population, that means 3.3 million women did not want to have sex the first time they did
- Women who were raped tended to be younger, and nearly a third went on to have unwanted pregnancies
One in 16 women in the US lost their virginity to rapists, a horrifying new study reveals.
That means that more than three million women were forced or coerced into their first sexual experience.
Researchers at Cambridge Health Alliance and Harvard University are calling their finding ‘just the tip of the iceberg,’ as lead study author Dr Laura Hawks said, ‘because this study is only including women aged 18 to 44.’
Her research comes amid the #MeToo Movement, which has shed light on the widespread sexual violence that millions of women experience in the US and around the world.
Some 6.5% of women were raped in their first sexual encounter, suggesting that 3.3 million US women were coerced physically or verbally when they lost their virginity, a new study found
One in five American women will be raped at some point over the course of their lives, and one third of women will be subjected to some form of sexual violence.
Rapists and other perpetrators are often people these women know well.
And all too often, they are taking advantage of young, vulnerable women and girls, including those with little or no sexual experience.
Those formative sexual experiences are crucial in shaping the future of a person’s intimacy, and traumatic experiences often not only hinder sexual development and fulfillment, but bleed into other areas of a person’s psychology.
To tease out just how commonly women’s very first sexual experience is one of rape, Dr Hawks and her team surveyed 13,310 American women between the ages of 18 and 44.
Of that group, 6.5 percent said that their first sexual encounter involved force or coercion.
Extrapolated to the wider American population, that translates to a staggering 3.3 million women whose first sexual experiences were unwanted ones.
And most of these now-adult women whose first encounters were forced were not yet adults when these happened.
The women who were raped during their first sexual experience lost their virginity at age 15-and-a-half – two years earlier, on average, than those whose first time was wholly consensual.
Assailants tended to be considerably older, averaging age 27, compared to 21-year-old partners in consensual sex.
And nearly a third of those first, unwanted sexual encounters resulted in an unwanted pregnancy.
Just under a quarter of women who were raped their first time had abortions, compared to 17 percent of women whose first experiences were consensual.
Although many of the women surveyed were physically forced into sex, most (56 percent) were coerced verbally.
Of those, 16 percent of women said their partners had made threats that they would end the relationship if the women did not acquiesce to having sex.
This pattern underscores the need for doctors to include questions about verbal coercion when taking a woman’s sexual history, according to the editorial accompanying the new study in JAMA Internal Medicine.
To the apparent surprise of the researchers, they did not find higher rates of obesity, cancer or diabetes among the women who had lost their virginities in traumatic encounters.
But ‘most strikingly, women with involuntary sexual initiation were more likely to experience subsequent unwanted first pregnancy or abortion, develop gynecologic conditions such as endometriosis and pelvic inflammatory disease, report illicit drug use, and report fair or poor health or health-related functional deficits,’ wrote Dr Alison Huang and Dr Carolyn Gibson in their commentary.
‘More women are now speaking openly about forced or coerced sexual activity, but there is much we still do not know about the long-term effect of these experiences on women’s health.
‘As screening and recognition of the range of situations and interactions that encompass sexual assault expand, we also should determine the consequences of these experiences for women across their lifespan.’