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Repeated Sexual Assault Victims Show Greater Levels of Psycho-Behavioral Consequences Than Earlier Thought

Update Date: May 25, 2014 05:42 AM EDT

If recent studies are to be believed, one in five adult women and one in 100 adult men have reported being raped. The prevalence increases to two in five among women and one in five among men who report experiencing other forms of sexual violence, i.e., repeated unwanted sexual contact and sexual coercion. 

Victims who are repeatedly assaulted, but not necessarily violently raped, show greater levels of psycho-behavioral consequences than previously thought, a new study is reporting. 

Researchers said understanding patterns of sexual victimization and related consequences will help develop strategies to combat sexual assault frequency among adolescents.

"Our findings are important because we are able to identify some of the weaknesses and potential fallacies in classifying survivors based on the violence encountered during the assault," said Bryana French, assistant professor of counseling psychology in the Department of Educational, School and Counseling Psychology in the College of Education at MU, in the press release. "Indirect, repeated or subtle manipulation tactics can lead to a lifetime of psychological consequences."

French added that researchers who study sexual assault typically assess victimization based on severity and rarely examine individual patterns of victimization. Researchers investigated the sexual victimization of those studied using a scale of sexual coercion including verbal coercion, substance-facilitated assault and forcible rape. The study is one of the few that examines all three types of sexual victimization. 

"Most sexual victimization research tends to focus on forcible, violent rape while the subtler forms of sexual assault, like manipulation and coercion, are less studied," French said. "Unfortunately, we know that people who are victimized often experience re-victimization by the same or different individual. Our research focuses on those individuals who receive multiple forms of unwanted sexual advances and the psychological toll those experiences take on the victims."

The study was published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

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