NEW YORK – About one in 10 young people have committed some type of sexual violence during their life, according to one of the first studies to look at young male and female perpetrators on a national level.
Research published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics found about 10 percent of those 21 years old and younger said they committed an act of coercive sexual contact, including kissing or touching someone against the other person’s will, persuading someone to have sex with them when the person didn’t want to, attempted rape and completed rape.
More than 1 million people are victims of sexual violence each year in the United States, costing almost $127 billion in medical and mental health costs, lost earnings, pain and diminished quality of life, the research found.
Monday’s study is one of the first to provide national estimates of young perpetrators of sexual violence, said lead author Michele Ybarra, president and research director of the California-based Center for Innovative Public Health Research, a nonprofit group examining the effect that technology has on health. She spoke in an Oct. 4 telephone interview.
Researchers analyzed data from 1,058 people ages 14 to 21 who took part in the Growing Up With Media study from 2006 to 2012. The study, a collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, is a continuing survey of about 1,600 youths and their caregivers.
Perpetrators had more exposure to television, music, games and Internet sites that depict sexual and violent situations than those who didn’t commit the crimes, the authors found. About 40 percent of those who committed sexual violence did so for the first time by age 16, the paper said. Boys started younger but by ages 18 and 19, the number of male and female perpetrators were about equal. Females tended to have older victims, while males had younger victims, the researchers said.