Objective: To provide reliable estimates of the prevalence, correlates and consequences of sexual coercion among a representative sample of Australian adults.
Methods: Computer-assisted telephone interviews were completed by a representative sample of 10,173 men and 9,134 women aged 16-59 years. The response rate was 73.1% (69.4% men, 77.6% women).
Results: Overall, 4.8% of men and 21.1% of women had experienced sexual coercion, i.e. being forced or frightened into unwanted sexual activity, and 2.8% of men and 10.3% of women had been coerced when aged 16 or younger. Although women were significantly more likely than men to have been sexually coerced, correlates of sexual coercion were similar for men and women and were not limited to effects on sexual behaviour. People who had been coerced reported greater psychosocial distress, were more likely to smoke, were more anxious about sex, and more likely to have acquired a sexually transmitted infection. Few people had talked to others about their experiences of sexual coercion and fewer had talked to a professional.
Conclusion: Sexual coercion is an unacceptably common experience. Sexual coercion has detrimental effects on various aspects of people's lives. It most commonly occurs at the ages at which people become sexually active and women are more likely than men to be sexually coerced.
Implications: There may be need for more readily accessible services that are better able to minimise the detrimental effects of sexual coercion. This is in addition to a more general need to reduce the incidence of sexual coercion.