National Center on Sexual Behavior of Youth Fact Sheet

National Center on Sexual Behavior of Youth Fact Sheet

Sexual Development and Sexual Behavior Problems in Children Ages 2-12
This Fact Sheet provides basic information about sexual development and problematic sexual behavior in children ages 2-12. This information is important for parents and professionals who work with or provide services to children such as teachers, physicians, child welfare personnel, daycare providers, and mental health professionals. Understanding children’s typical sexual development, knowledge, and behavior is necessary to accurately identify sexual behavior problems in children. Guidelines to distinguish typical sexual behaviors from problematic sexual behaviors are described below.

Research on sexual behavior of children ages 2 to 12 has documented that:

  • sexual responses are present from birth; 1
  • a wide range of sexual behaviors for this age range are normal and non-problematic; 1, 2
  • increasing numbers of school age children are being identified with inappropriate or aggressive sexual behavior;3 it is not clear if this increase reflects an increase in the actual number of cases or an increase in identification and reporting;
  • several treatment interventions have been found to be effective in reducing problematic sexual behavior in children, such as cognitive behavioral group treatment;4, 5 and
  • sexual development and behavior are influenced by social, familial, and cultural factors, as well as genetics and biology.7

Typical sexual knowledge of children age 2 to 6 years old:

  • understand that boys and girls have different private parts;
  • know labels for sexual body parts, but use slang words such as weenie for penis; and
  • have limited information about pregnancy and childbirth.

Typical sexual knowledge of children ages 7 to 12 years old:

  •  learn the correct names for the genitals but use slang terms;
  •  have increased knowledge about masturbation, intercourse, and pregnancy; and
  •  understand the physical aspects of puberty by age 10.

Common vs. Infrequent Sexual Behaviors in Children

In the last decade, research has described typical sexual behaviors in boys and girls ages 2-12.2 The table below lists sexual behaviors that are commonly observed or reported by parents of pre-school and school age children.

COMMON SEXUAL BEHAVIORS
AGES 2-6

  • Do not have a strong sense of modesty, enjoys own nudity
  • Use elimination words with peers
  • May explore body differences between girls and boys
  • Curious about sexual and genital parts
  • Touch their private parts, even in public
  • Exhibit sex play with peers and siblings; playing “doctor”
  • Experience pleasure from touching their genitals

COMMON SEXUAL BEHAVIORS
AGES 7-12

Sexual play with children they know, such as playing “doctor”
Interested in sexual content in media (TV, movies, radio)
Touch own genitals at home, in private
Look at nude pictures
Interested in the opposite sex
Shy about undressing
Shy around strange men

Research has also described infrequent and uncommon sexual behaviors in boys and girls ages 2-12. 2

The table below lists sexual behaviors that are reported by parents of pre-school and school age children to be infrequent or highly unusual.

INFREQUENT SEXUAL BEHAVIORS AGES 2 – 12
Puts mouth on sex parts
Asks to engage in sex acts
Puts objects in rectum or vagina
Imitates intercourse
Masturbates with objects
Undresses other people
Touches others’ sex parts after being told not to
Asks to watch sexually explicit television
Touches adults’ sex parts
Makes sexual sounds

Sexual Play vs. Problematic Sexual Behavior

Professionals in the field have developed a continuum of sexual behaviors that range from common sexual play to problematic sexual behavior.10 These are described below.

Sexual play

  •  is exploratory and spontaneous;
  •  occurs intermittently and by mutual agreement;
  •  occurs with children of similar age, size, or developmental level, such as siblings, cousins, or peers;
  •  is not associated with high levels of fear, anger, or anxiety;
  • decreases when told by caregivers to stop; and
  • can be controlled by increased supervision.

Problematic sexual behavior

  •  is a frequent, repeated behavior, such as compulsive masturbation;
    • Example: A six-year-old repeatedly masturbates at school or in other public places.
  • occurs between children who do not know each other well;
    • Example: An eight-year-old girl shows her private parts to a new child during an after school program.
  • occurs with high frequency and interferes with normal childhood activities;
    • Example: A seven-year-old girl has been removed from the soccer team because she continues to touch other children’s private parts.
  • is between children of different ages, size, and development level;
    • Example: An eleven-year-old boy is “playing doctor” with a three-year-old girl.
  • is aggressive, forced, or coerced;
    • Example: A ten-year-old threatens his six-year-old cousin and makes him touch his penis.
  • does not decrease after the child is told to stop the behavior;
    • Example: A nine-year-old child continues to engage other children in mutual touching after being told the behavior is not allowed and having consequences, such as being grounded.
  • causes harm to the child or others.
    • Example: A child causes physical injury, such as bruising, redness, or abrasions on themselves or another child, or causes another child to be highly upset or fearful.9

Children With Sexual Behavior Problems

Children with sexual behavior problems (SBPs) are children 12 years and under who demonstrate developmentally inappropriate or aggressive sexual behavior. This definition includes self-focused sexual behavior, such as frequent public masturbation, and intrusive or aggressive sexual behavior towards others that may include coercion or force. Although the term “sexual” is used, the children’s intentions and motivations for these behaviors may be unrelated to sexual gratification.

Some children who have been sexually abused have inappropriate sexual behaviors and others have aggressive or highly problematic sexual behavior.8 However, it should be noted that the majority of children who have been sexually abused do not have subsequent inappropriate or aggressive sexual behaviors.

Although only a small number of children develop problematic sexual behavior, professionals and parents may have concerns about (1) whether the behavior is problematic, (2) whether a child should be referred for mental health services, and (3) when an incident should be reported to the proper authorities.

Suggestions for professionals and parents are listed below:

  •  Do not overreact as most sexual behaviors in children are within the typical or expected range.
  •  Inappropriate or problematic sexual behavior in children is not a clear indicator that a child has been sexually abused.
  •  Most children will stop the behavior if they are told the rules, mildly restricted, well supervised, and praised for appropriate behavior.
  •  If the sexual behavior is problematic as defined above, referral for mental health services is recommended.
  •  It is important to remember that children with problematic sexual behavior are significantly different from adolescent and adult sex offenders.
  •  A report to Child Protective Services (CPS) and/or law enforcement may be required by law for certain behaviors such as aggressive or forced sexual behavior.

Additional information about adolescent sex offenders and children with sexual behavior problems is available from the National Center on Sexual Behavior of Youth, http://www.ncsby.org.

Reference:
1. Gordon, B. N., & Schroeder, C. S. (1995). Sexuality: A developmental approach to problems. New York: Plenum Press.
2. Friedrich, W. N., Grambsch, P., Broughton, D., Kuiper, J., & Beilke, R. L. (1991). Normative sexual behavior in children. Pediatrics, 88, 456-464.
3. Araji, S. K. (1997). Sexually aggressive children: Coming to understand them. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
4. Bonner, B. L., Walker, C. E., & Berliner, L. (1999). Children with sexual behavior problems: Assessment and treatment (Final Report, Grant No. 90-CA-1469). Washington, DC: Administration of Children, Youth, and Families, Department of Health and Human Services.
5. Pithers, W. D., Gray, A., Busconi, A., & Houchens, P. (1998). Children with sexual behavior problems: Identification of five distinct child type and related treatment considerations. Child Maltreatment, 3, 384-406.
6. DeLamater, J., & Friedrich, W. N. (2002). Human sexual development. The Journal of Sex Research, 39, 10-14.
7. Silovsky, J. F., & Bonner, B. L. (2003). Children with sexual behavior problems. In T.H. Ollendick, & C.S. Schroeder (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Clinical Child and Pediatric Psychology (pp.589-591). New York: Kluwer Press.
8. Kendall-Tackett, K. A., Williams, L. M., & Finkelhor, D. (1993). Impact of sexual abuse on children: A review and synthesis of recent empirical studies. Psychological Bulletin, 113, 164-180.
9. Hall, D. H., Matthews, F., Pearce, J., Sarlo-McGarvey, N., & Gavin, D. (1996). The development of sexual behavior problems in children and youth. Ontario, Canada: Central Toronto Youth Services.
10. Johnson, T. C. (1998). Understanding children’s sexual behaviors: What is natural and healthy. Order information http://www.TcavJohn.com.

The University of Oklahoma is an equal opportunity institution.

Opinions in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official positions or policies of the US. Department of Justice/Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

This Fact Sheet was prepared through the National Center on Sexual Behavior of Youth at the Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and was authored by Jane F. Silovsky, PhD and Barbara L. Bonner, PhD. This project is funded by grant number 01-JR-BX-K002 from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), US Department of Justice.

SEXUAL ASSAULT—KNOW THE FACTS

SEXUAL ASSAULT—KNOW THE FACTS

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Sexual assault is pervasive in Michigan and in the United
States. Recent studies provide compelling evidence to indicate the scope of the problem. The National
Violence Against Women Survey found that 1 of 6 U.S. women and 1 of 33 U.S. men has experienced
an attempted or completed rape as a child and/or an adult. (Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences
of Violence Against Women. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs. November 1998.)
Statistics indicate that sexual assault is a significant problem.

In Michigan, 40% of women have experienced some form of sexual violence, ranging from unwanted
touching to forcible rape, since the age of 16. (Survey of Violence in the Lives of Michigan Women.
Michigan Department of Community Health, Community Public Health Agency, 1996.)

Almost 5000 rapes and attempted rapes were reported to Michigan law enforcement agencies in 2000.
(Michigan Uniform Crime Report. Michigan State Police, 2001.)

Sexual assault is a crime committed primarily against girls and women under the age of 25.

The National Violence Against Women Survey found that of the women who reported being raped at some
time in their lives, 21.6% were under the age of 12 years old, 32.4% were 12-17 years old, 29% were 18-24
years old, and 16.6% were over 25 years old when they were first raped. This means 54% of women
victims were under 18 at the time of the first rape and 83% of women victims were under the age of 25.
(Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women. U.S. Department of Justice, Office
of Justice Programs. November 1998.)

Most sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows, not a stranger.

About 6 in 10 rape or sexual assault victims knew their assailant. Approximately 43% of victims are raped
by a friend or acquaintance; 34% by a stranger; 17% by an intimate; and 2% by another relative. (National
Crime Victimization Survey. Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice. 2000.)

More than 70% of rape or sexual assault victims knew their attackers, compared to about half of all violent
crime victims. (Sexual Victimization of College Women. Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of
Justice. 2001.)

Men and boys are also victims of sexual assault.
In one study, 5% of boys in grades 9-12 and 3% of boys in grades 5-8 reported that they had been sexually
abused. (The Commonwealth Fund Survey of the Health of Adolescent Girls. New York: The
Commonwealth Fund. 1997.)

About three percent of American men—a total of 2.78 million men—have experienced an attempted or
completed rape in their lifetime. (Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women.
U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs. November 1998.)

Sexual assault victims do not lie about the assaults, in fact sexual assault is a vastly underreported
crime.

Rape or sexual assault is the violent crime least often reported to law enforcement. In 1999, only 28% of
victims reported the assault to police. (Criminal Victimization 2000: Changes 1999-2000 with Trends
1993-2000. Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice. June 2001.)

The rate of “false reports” or false allegations of rape is 2% to 3%, no different than that for other crimes.
(Schafran, L. H. 1993. Writing and reading about rape: A Primer. St. John’s Law Review, 66, 979-1045.)
Assailants use many forms of coercion, threats and manipulation to rape including alcohol and
drugs. Alcohol, Rohypnol, and other drugs are often used to incapacitate victims.

Men who have committed sexual assault also frequently report getting their female companion drunk as a
way of making it easier to talk or force her into having sex. (Abbey, A., McAuslan, P. & Ross, L. Sexual
Assault Perpetration by College Men: The Role of Alcohol, Misperception of Sexual Intent, and Sexual
Beliefs and Experiences. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 17, 167-195. 1998.)

Although the media has labeled drugs such as Rohypnol and GHB as the date-rape drugs of the present,
these are only two of the many drugs used to incapacitate a victim. Of the 22 substances used in drugfacilitated
rapes, alcohol is the most common. (LeBeau, M., et al., Recommendations for Toxicological
Investigations of Drug Facilitated Sexual Assaults, Journal of Forensic Sciences. 1999.)

Michigan Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence
3893 Okemos Road, Suite B2 Okemos, MI 48864
Phone: (517) 347-7000 Fax: (517) 347-1377 TTY: (517) 381-8470
http://www.mcadsv.org

The Effects of Rape

Effects of Rape

Victims of sexual assault are:7

3 times more likely to suffer from depression.

6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

13 times more likely to abuse alcohol.

26 times more likely to abuse drugs.

4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.

Pregnancies Resulting from Rape

In 2004-2005, 64,080 women were raped.8 According to medical reports, the incidence of pregnancy for one-time unprotected sexual intercourse is 5%. By applying the pregnancy rate to 64,080 women, RAINN estimates that there were 3,204 pregnancies as a result of rape during that period.

This calculation does not account for the following factors which could lower the actual number of pregnancies:
  • Rape, as defined by the NCVS, is forced sexual intercourse. Forced sexual intercourse means vaginal, oral, or anal penetration by offender(s). This category includes incidents where the penetration is from a foreign object such as a bottle. Certain types of rape under this definition cannot cause pregnancy.
  • Some victims of rape may be utilizing birth control methods, such as the pill, which will prevent pregnancy.
  • Some rapists may wear condoms in an effort to avoid DNA detection.
  • Vicims of rape may not be able to become pregnant for medical or age-related reasons.
This calculation does not account for the following factors which could raise the actual number of pregnancies:
  • Medical estimates of a 5% pregnancy rate are for one-time, unprotected sexual intercourse. Some victimizations may include multiple incidents of intercourse.
  • Because of methodology, NCVS does not measure the victimization of Americans age 12 or younger. Rapes of these young people could results in pregnancies not accounted for in RAINN’s estimates.
References
1.         National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women Survey. 1998.
2.         U.S. Department of Justice. 2003 National Crime Victimization Survey. 2003.
3.         U.S. Department of Justice. 2004 National Crime Victimization Survey. 2004.
4.         1998 Commonwealth Fund Survey of the Health of Adolescent Girls. 1998.
5.         U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Children and Families. 1995 Child Maltreatment Survey. 1995.
6.         U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. 2000 Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement. 2000.
7.         World Health Organization. 2002.
8.         U.S. Department of Justice. 2005 National Crime Victimization Survey. 2005.
http://www.rainn.org/get-information/statistics/sexual-assault-victims

Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault

Drug Facilitated Assault

Drug facilitated assault: when drugs or alcohol are used to compromise an individual’s ability to consent to sexual activity. In addition, drugs and alcohol are often used in order to minimize the resistance and memory of the victim of a sexual assault.

Alcohol remains the most commonly used chemical in crimes of sexual assault, but there are also substances being used by perpetrators including: Rohypnol, GHB, GBL, etc.

 

Diminished Capacity

Diminished capacity exists when an individual does not have the capacity to consent. Reasons for this inability to consent include, but are not limited to: sleeping, drugged, passed out, unconscious, mentally incapacitated, etc.

It is important to understand diminished capacity because oftentimes victims of sexual assault in these situations blame themselves because they drank, did drugs, etc. It is essential to emphasize that it is not his or her fault, that the aggressor is the one who took advantage of his or her diminished capacity.

 

Rohypnol

Rohypnol is not approved for medical use in the United States. It is smuggled into the country and has become an increasingly popular street drug.

Street Names: Roofies, Roach, the Forget Pill, Circles, Mexican Valium, Rib, Roach-2, Roopies, Rophies, La Rochas, Rope, Poor Man’s Quaalude, Whiteys, Trip-and-Fall, Mind Erasers, Lunch Money, and R-2.

What is it?: A small white tablet that looks a lot like aspirin. It quickly disolves in liquid and can take effect within 30 minutes of being ingested. The effects peak within 2 hours and may have lingering effects for 8 hours or more.

 

Effects

 

 

 

GHB

GHB has not been approved by the FDA since 1990. Therefore, it is illegal for distribution and sale in the U.S.

Street Names: Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH), Liquid X, Liquid E, G, Georgia Home Boys, Easy Lay, Cherry Meth, Soap, PM, Salt Water, Vita G, G-Juice, Great Hormones, Somatomax, Bedtime Scoop, Gook, Gamma 10, Energy Drink, and Goop.

What is it?: Pure GHB is commonly sold as a clear, odorless liquid or white crystalline powder. Because it is made in home labs, the effects are often unpredictable. Once ingested, GHB takes effect in approximately 15 minutes and can last 3-4 hours.

 

Effects

 

  • Sedation of the body
  • Intense drowsiness
  • Hampered mobility
  • Verbal incoherence
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Nausea, aspiration on own vomit
  • Headache
  • Respiratory failure
  • Unconsciousness
  • Seizure-like activity
  • Coma, death


GBL

A GHB-like product, GBL is often sold under the guise of a dietary supplement or an industrial cleaner.

What is it?: When the body metabolizes GBL, it becomes twice as potent as GHB. It has a bitter taste that can easily be masked by strong-tasting drinks. GBL now comes in flavors such as lime, cinnamon, and cherry. Once ingested it takes approximately 30-45 minutes to take effect.

 

Effects

 

  • Severe amnesia
  • Nausea, aspiration on own vomit
  • Lethargy
  • Confusion
  • Hypothermia
  • Coma
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Seizures
  • Agitation
  • Loss of bowel control
  • Death


NOTE: People who take GBL may act normally (i.e., may not appear intoxicated or sedated) but will have no memory of the time period. This effect can make it difficult for friends or acquaintances to identify that the individual has been drugged.

 

Benzodiazepines

What is it? Commonly prescribed as anti-anxiety and sleeping medications in the United States, these drugs can be put into an alcoholic drink or soft drink in powder or liquid form. These are legal forms of Rohypnol.

What it does: Like the other drugs described above, Benzodiazepines can markedly impair and even abolish functions that normally allow a person to resist, or even want to resist, sexual aggression or assault.

 

GHB, GBL, Rohypnol, & Benzodiazepines

NOTE:For all of these drugs, alcohol increases the effects.

All four of these drugs have some common effects that make them appealing to perpetrators. These drugs are common weapons of sexual assault due to the combined efforts of the sedative effect and the memory-impairment qualities.

How they Work
  • They are typically odorless, colorless, and tasteless when placed in liquid (except for GBL).
  • 5-30 minutes after ingestion, the victim of the drugging may struggle to talk or to move and may eventually pass out.
  • At this point the drugged individual is vulnerable to assault.
  • A survivor of such an assault may have virtually no memory of the events that occurred.

Another factor that makes these drugs dangerous and difficult to detect is that they leave the body rapidly, leaving little time for detection.

  • Rohypnol– leaves in 36-72 hours
  • GHB– leaves in 10-12 hours
  • GLB– leaves the urinary system within 6 hours and the blood stream within 24 hours.
Some Good News

The producers of Rohypnol have recently changed the chemistry of the pill so that it changes the color of clear drinks to bright blue and makes dark drinks go cloudy. It will, however, take a while for these new pills to hit the streets.

Ketamine

A dissociative general anesthetic that has stimulant, hallucinogenic, and hypnotic properties. It is usually used by veterinarians.

Street Names: K, K-Hole, Special K, Vitamin K, Purple, Psychedelic Heroin, Kit Kat, Jet, Bump, Black Hole.

What is it?: A fast-acting liquid that can be slipped into drinks. It can be used to sedate and incapacitate individuals in order to sexually assault them. Ketamine is especially dangerous when mixed with other drugs or alcohol.

What it does: Ketamine causes individuals to feel detached from their bodies and their surroundings so that, while they may be aware of what is happening to them, they are unable to move or fight back. In addition it may cause amnesia so that they do not remember what happened.

 

Effects

 

  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Agitation
  • Disorientation
  • Impaired motor skills
  • High blood pressure
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Depression
  • Potentially fatal respiratory failure


Ecstasy

A toxic hallucinogenic and stimulant that has psychedelic effects. It is illegal to sell or to produce in the United States.

Street Names: E, X, X-TC, M&Ms, Adam, CK, Clarity, Hug Drug, Lover’s Speed.

What is it?: Ecstasy is commonly sold as small pills or capsules and is also available in powder and liquid forms. It can be slipped into an individual’s drink in order to facilitate sexual assault.

What it does: Ecstasy causes individuals to feel extreme relaxation and positivity towards others while it increases sensitivity to touch. When under the influence of ecstasy individuals are less likely to be able to sense danger and it may leave them unable to protect themselves from attack.

 

Effects

 

  • Increased blood pressure, pulse, and body temperature
  • Nausea
  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Hallucinations
  • Chills
  • Sweating
  • Tremors
  • Strokes
  • Seizures
  • Hypothermia
  • Heat stroke
  • Heart failure

 


References:
Information for this section was adapted from http://www.911rape.org and materials provided by the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault. This is published on RAINN.org.

 

Behind Closed Doors: Judy Chaet

Behind closed doors
Fear and intimidation tell the real truth about domestic violence

Sheila walked into my office; she was a bundle of nerves. She looked down at her hands, which were twisting a handkerchief round and round between her fingers. She had come in to talk about her problem (she was having trouble sleeping and remembering things). The first thing she said was, “I’m not one of those battered women — he doesn’t hit me.”

Sheila and I met many times over the next six months. Her story came out in bits and pieces. It was true: He didn’t hit her, except for that one time — the time he broke her jaw, her cheekbone and her favorite mixing bowl (all over the kitchen). After that, he never hit her again. But there was the time he cut the cord to the telephone, and wouldn’t let her fix it — because she talked to her 85-year-old mother too much. There was the time he threatened to kill her twin sister, if she ever left him. There were the times he kept her awake all night, telling her what a lousy mother she was and that she couldn’t even keep the house clean. And then there was the time he hanged her dog in the garage, because she couldn’t make it stop sleeping on the sofa.

The thing about domestic violence is that it is insidious — it is, by definition, private and “behind closed doors.” The true depth and impact of the violence are almost impossible to quantify. Was Sheila a battered woman? YES. The number of hits, or who hit whom first, does not define abuse. It is, rather, a pattern of behavior. Was Sheila afraid of her husband? You bet.

The more telling point is who has the power — and who is afraid. One partner in a relationship may have been the one to “hit first,” this time. But what went on in the hours or days before that hit? Domestic violence goes far beyond the physical violence. It is also the coercion and threats, the sexual abuse, the intimidation, the isolation, the economic abuse, the use of the children as a threat (or to make her feel guilty). And, most often, it is the minimizing of that abuse — the denial and the blame.

The minimizing, denial and blame are all cruelly intentional acts designed to make the victim feel responsible for the abuse. Sheila believed that her actions were the cause of his violently abusive behavior.

We have all been taught from infancy that the well-being of homes, families and marriages is the responsibility of women. When there are problems in these arenas, we look to the women first: “Where was she while the children were doing that?” “Why does she stay?” These are the questions we are used to hearing, and asking. These are the questions that battered women ask themselves. And these questions are reinforced by everything that batterers tell their victims: If it’s her fault, then there must be something she can do to stop the abuse. But the truth is, there is nothing she can do to stop the abuse: It is the batterer’s intentional choice to batter.

Are there men who are battered? Most reliable research says yes. And it’s a sad fact that all of us are most in danger from those we are closest to. But the 1995 Department of Justice National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) found that women were six times more likely than men to experience violence committed by an intimate (the number of incidents per 1,000 people is 9.4, and for men it is 1.4). And, according to other Justice Department crime statistics, three out of four rapes/sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim, and 45 percent of murder victims are related to or acquainted with their assailants.

Surely there are men who are battered; the question is, What are the real numbers? The following numbers from the NCVS differ dramatically from those reported by Mr. Gelles using the Conflict Tactics Scales (CTS).

Average annual rate and number of violent victimizations committed by lone offenders by sex of victim and victim/offender relationship, NCVS 1992-94:

What is Domestic Violence?

what is domestic violence?

 

  1. Physical – includes pushing, shoving, slapping, hitting with fists, kicking, chocking, grabbing pinching, pulling hair, jumping on, and/or threatening with weapons.
  2. Sexual – includes coercing partner into sexual acts, forcing partner into sexual acts, or the use of objects without the partner’s consent.
  3. Psychological/Emotional – includes brainwashing, control of the partner’s freedom to come and go.
  4. Destruction – of person, property or pets. This includes threatened destruction.

 

Domestic violence is used for one purpose: to gain and maintain power and control over the victim. In addition to physical violence, abusers use the following tactics, among others, to exert power over their partners:

 

  • Dominance – Abusive individuals need to feel in charge of the relationship. They will make decisions for you and the family, tell you what to do, and expect you to obey without question. Your abuser may treat you like a servant, a child, or a possession.
  • Humiliation – An abuser will do everything to make you feel bad about yourself, or defective in some way. After all, if you believe you’re worthless and that no one else will want you, you’re less likely to leave. Insults, name-calling, shaming, and public put-downs are all weapons of abuse designed to erode yours self-esteem and make you feel powerless.
  • Isolation – In order to increase your dependence, an abusive partner will cut you off from the outside world. You may be kept from seeing family or friends, or possibly prevented from going to work or school. You may have to ask permission to do anything, go anywhere, or see anyone.
  • ThreatsAbusers commonly use threats to keep their victims from leaving or to scare them into dropping charges. Your abuser may threaten to hurt or kill you, your children, or other family members, or even pets. Other threats might be of suicide, homicide, filing false charges against you, or reporting you to child protective services.
  • Intimidation – Your abuser may use a variety of intimidation tactics designed to scare you into submission. Such tactics include making threatening looks or gestures, smashing things in front of you, destroying property, hurting your pets, or putting weapons on display. The clear message is that if you don’t obey, there will be violent consequences.
  • Denial and blame – Abusers are very good at making excuses for the inexcusable. They will blame their abusive and violent behavior on a bad childhood, a bad day, on intoxication, and on the victims of the abuse. Your abuser may minimize the abuse or deny that it occurred. Commonly, the responsibility will be shifted onto you: Somehow, the abuse and violence is your fault. It isn’t. The only one at fault is the abuser.

Sexual and Domestic Violence Risk Factors

Sexual and Domestic Violence Risk Factors

A visual depiction of sexual and domestic violence risk factors. The graphic is explained below.

 

Explanation of the graphic:

Sexual and domestic violence can be visualized as a four-level circular graphic. There are four circles, or layers, and each is inside the next layer. This is a part of systems theory, when each system, or level, influences the others based on a micro or macro level of importance.

At the very center, inside of everything, is the Individual level

Individual – Influences: attitudes and beliefs that support sexual and domestic violence; impulsive and anti-social behavior; childhood history of witnessing sexual or domestic violence; alcohol and drug use.

Surrounding the individual level is the Relationship level.

Relationship – Influences: Association with aggressive peers (physically and sexually); family environment that is emotionally unsupportive, physically violent, or strongly patriarchal.

Surrounding the Relationship and Individual levels combined is the Community level.

Community – Influences: general tolerance of sexual assault and domestic violence; lack of support from police or judicial system; poverty, lack of employment opportunities, weak community sanctions against perpetrators.

Surrounding the Relationship, Individual, and Community levels is the final level, societal.

Societal – Influences: Inequalities based on gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, cultural beliefs, economic, and social policies.

 

 

 

To prevent sexual and domestic violence, we have to understand what factors influence its occurrence. The model offers a framework for understanding the complex interplay of individual, relationship, social, political, cultural, and environmental factors that influence sexual and domestic violence, and also provides key prevention and intervention points.

 

  • Individual-level influences are biological and include personal history factors that increase the likelihood that an individual will become a victim or perpetrator of violence. Interventions for individual-level influences are often designed to target social and cognitive skills and behavior and include approaches such as counseling, therapy, and educational training sessions.
  • Interpersonal relationship-level influences are factors that increase risk as a result of relationships with peers, intimate partners, and family members. A person’s closest social circle – peers, partners, and family members – can shape the individual’s behavior and range of experience. Interventions for interpersonal relationship-level influences could include family therapy, bystander intervention skill development, and parenting training.
  • Community-level influences are factors that increase risk based on community and social environments and include an individual’s experiences and relationships with schools, workplaces, and neighborhoods. For example, lack of sexual harassment policies in the workplace can send a message that sexual harassment is tolerated, and that there may be few or no consequences for those who harass others. Interventions for community-level influences are typically designed to impact the climate, systems, and policies in a given setting.
  • Societal-level influences are larger, macro-level factors that influence sexual and domestic violence that create or sustain gaps and tensions between groups of people. For example, rape is more common in cultures that promote male sexual entitlement and support an ideology of male superiority. Interventions for societal level influences typically involve collaborations by multiple partners to change laws and policies related to sexual and domestic violence or gender inequality. Another intervention would be to determine societal norms that accept violence and to identify strategies for changing those norms.

 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexual Violence prevention: beginning the dialogue. Atlanta, GA: CDC; 2004.