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Sexual Victimization: New Data Challenges Stereotypes

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Lara Stemple and her colleagues are leading the charge to change perceptions of sexual victimization and more accurately account for the gender of sexual perpetrators.

Stemple is the director of Graduate Studies at the UCLA School of Law and is the director of the Health and Human Rights Law Project.
Two recent studies have blazed the way. The first was published in April of 2014. It was co-written by Stemple and Ilan Meyer. “The Sexual Victimization of Men in American: New Data Challenge Old Assumptions” was published in the American Journal of Public Health.

When assessing five different federal surveys from 2010 to 2012, the research team concluded that sexual victimization of men in America was about equal to the prevalence found with women.

This first research work also showed women are perpetrators at much higher rates than commonly believed. That finding was the foundation for a second research work for the peer reviewed journal Aggression and Violent Behavior.

“Sexual Victimization Perpetrated by Women: Federal Data Reveal a Surprising Prevalence” by Stemple, Meyer and Andrew Flores was just released.
It records a high degree of sexual abuse and sexual victimization perpetuated by women on both boys and men. This cuts against the stereotypes of women as being “nurturing, submissive helpmate to men.”

The researchers say: “The idea that women can be sexually manipulative, dominant, and even violent runs counter to these stereotypes. Yet, studies have documented female-perpetrated acts that span a wide spectrum of sexual abuse.”

Historically, female perpetration has been minimized even among mental health and social work professionals. However, evidence shows that young boys abused by women are more reluctant to disclose their victimization by women than by men.

Often sexual abuse by women is mischaracterized as a “rite of passage” for the male and benign when, to the contrary, it is actually sexual abuse and produces long-term damage in the male.

This is especially true if the female perpetrator is the mother of her victim.