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Sexual Coercion

Rape is defined as nonconsensual oral, anal, or vaginal penetration obtained by force, by threat of bodily harm, or when the victim is incapable of giving consent. A woman's lifetime risk of being raped is between 14 and 25 percent. Victims may experience posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of the assault. Date rape and marital rape are more common than many people realize. There are four major theoretical views of rape: victim precipitated, psychopathology of rapists, feminist, and social disorganization. Rape has particularly charged meanings for some ethnic groups within the United States.

Approximately 17 percent of women and 12 percent of men report that, when they were children, they had sexual contact with an adult or adolescent over 14 years of age. Most sexual abuse of children is committed by a relative or by a family friend. Sexually abused children are more likely than other children to have symptoms such as anxiety, PTSD, depression, and health complaints. More severe psychological consequences are likely to occur when the perpetrator is a close family member who is an adult (sibling incest seems less harmful) and when the sexual contact is extensive and involves penetration. Pedophiles are more likely to be attracted to girls than to boys. Some types of child molesters have a low rate of recidivism, but certain types are highly likely to repeat their offense. Drugs such as MPA and CPA are effective treatments for sex offenders, as is cognitive-behavioral therapy.

There is a controversy among professionals over whether adults can recover memories of child sexual abuse that they had forgotten (recovered memory), or whether these are cases of false memory syndrome, in which the supposedly remembered incidents never actually occurred.

Sexual harassment, whether on the job or in education, involves unwelcome sexual advances when there is some coercion involved, such as making the sexual contact a condition of being hired or receiving an A grade in a course. In another form of sexual harassment, the work or educational environment is made so hostile, on a sexual and gender basis, that the employee cannot work effectively. Surveys show that sexual harassment at work is fairly common. In severe cases it can lead to damaging psychological consequences such as PTSD for the victim. In education, the data indicate that about 50 percent of female students have been harassed by professors. This abuse can lead to negative consequences for the student, such as being forced to change majors or drop out of school. Sex between psychotherapist and client also carries the potential for psychological damage to the client.

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