■ The concept of sexual addiction suggests that some people who engage in excessive sexual activity are manifesting symptoms of a psychological addiction, in which feelings of depression, anxiety, loneliness, and worthlessness are tempo­rarily relieved through a sexual high.

■ Many sexologists do not believe that sexual addiction should be a distinct diagnostic category, because it is rare and lacking in distinction from other compulsive disorders, such as gambling and eating disorders, and because this label negates individual responsibility for "uncontrollable" sexual compulsions that victimize others.

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CHAPTER 16

Sexual Coercion

Rape

What are some major false beliefs about rape?

What sociocultural factors help explain the high incidence of rape in

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Sexual Abuse of Children

What are some reasons that sexual abuse of children is so often

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What can parents and other caregivers do to make children less vulnerable to sexual abuse?

Sexual Harassment

What kinds of sexual harassment occur in the workplace and in

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What are some options available to someone who is being sexually harassed?

AP Photo/Michael Manning

I was sexually abused by my stepbrother throughout a great part of my child­hood. The abuse started the summer I was 10. He is three and a half years older than me, and he was my designated babysitter all summer. Нє usually wasn’t violent. It was more coaxing and coercion, and threats of what would happen if I told. the strongest memories I have are of times when it was particularly physi­cally painful. I put myself out of my body, and would just watch the ceiling fan go around and around. When I was 13 I saw a talk show on incest and then told a woman at my church what was happening to me, and it kind of all fell apart from there. As much as the thought of the whole experience is repulsive, what hurt the most is my parents calling it child’s play in discussion with CpS [Child protective Services]. My parents even had me believing at one point that I really had wanted it and was telling them about it for attention. Because of this reaction, I believed for a while that it was my fault and that I was dirty because of it. My stepbrother plea-bargained his case, and he was put on probation. I was taken out of the home and put in foster and group homes. I attempted suicide numerous times and was in four different psychiatric hospitals over about four years. I no longer have any contact with the "family." I am blessed to have been adopted into another loving family. My new dad is the one who saved me from hating all men forever. But I still have problems regarding sex. My boyfriend can’t even hold me romantically. I have only stopped having flashbacks and nightmares fairly recently. I am in therapy for the umpteenth time, but this time it is really working. (Authors’ files)

A person has been sexually victimized when she or he is deprived of free choice and is coerced or forced to comply with sexual acts under duress. Victims of coercive sexual acts often suffer grievous consequences, as revealed in the preceding account, provided by a 19-year-old college student. In this chapter, we focus on three particularly abusive and exploitative forms of sexual coercion: rape, the sexual abuse of children, and sexual harass­ment. All these behaviors involve strong elements of coercion, sometimes even violence.

Rape

Although the legal definition of rape varies from state to state, most state laws define rape as sexual intercourse occurring under actual or threatened forcible compulsion that overcomes the earnest resistance of the victim. This coercive act can range from violent assault by a stranger, an acquaintance, or a family member to a planned roman­tic date that degrades into an episode of coerced sex. What these acts have in common is a lack of empathy for the feelings of victims and a willingness to take advantage of and often harm them. Most writers and researchers on this topic distinguish at least three different types of rape. Stranger rape is rape by an unknown assailant. Acquain­tance rape, or date rape, is committed by someone known to the victim. Statutory rape is intercourse with a person under the age of consent. (The age of consent var­ies by state and ranges from 14 to 18.) Statutory rape is considered to have occurred regardless of the apparent willingness of the underage partner.