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Sexual Coercion: Abuse and Perceptions

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History of Abuse Predicting Current Experiences and Perceptions of Sexual Coercion

Sexual aggression among college students has been a popular topic of examination for the past three decades. One of the reasons for the repeated analysis is the fact that sexual aggression remains a common and enduring experience among college students. An early survey on this topic found that 54% of college women reported experiencing some sort of sexual victimization (Koss, Gidycz, & Wisniewski, 1987). That same year, Muehlenhard and Linton reported that 78% of female college students experienced some sort of sexual coercion and 15% reported experiencing a rape. Studies since then have consistently replicated those findings. Sexual coercion is commonly defined as any method used to obtain sexual contact with an initially unwilling partner, including negotiation and reasoning, guilt or emotional pressure, and the threat or use of physical aggression (Lyndon, White, & Kadlec, 2007).

Given the frequent occurrence of sexual coercion, it is likely that many students accept this behavior as expected and within the boundaries of social norms (Johnson, 1980). One of the few studies to examine perceptions of sexual coercion used written vignettes to examine the impact of initiator gender and type of coercive act on interpretations of the actors and behaviors (Oswald & Russell, 2006). In that study, college students did not rate the target of the sexual coercion as experiencing high levels of victimization, no matter the aggressiveness of the coercive strategy used, nor did they view the influence strategies or the person using them as particularly aggressive. Although the study provides useful information on the perception of sexually coercive...

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...ory as a risk factor for sexual harassment among U. S. Army soldiers. Violence and Victims, 13(3), 269-286.

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