Prevalence and Characteristics of Sexual Violence in the Netherlands, the Risk of Revictimization and Pregnancy: Results from a National Population Survey

By de Haas, Stans; van Berlo, Willy et al. | Violence and Victims, July 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Prevalence and Characteristics of Sexual Violence in the Netherlands, the Risk of Revictimization and Pregnancy: Results from a National Population Survey


de Haas, Stans, van Berlo, Willy, Bakker, Floor, Vanwesenbeeck, Ine, Violence and Victims


Prevalence figures on sexual violence among a representative sample of both men and women were not yet available for the Netherlands. The aim of this study, therefore, was to investigate the prevalence of sexual violence in the Netherlands and to add these figures to the international body of knowledge. Experiences of sexual violence during lifetime, before the age of 16 and in the year before the start of the study were measured. In addition, types of sexual violence were examined, as were the characteristics of the perpetrators. Lastly, revictimization and pregnancy as a result of rape experiences among the victims were investigated. Data were generated from a population survey on sexual health. The sample consisted of more than 6,000 men and women between the age of 15 and 70 years old. Prevalence rates as high as 21% for men and 56% for women were found. Fifty percent of the female victims and 30% of the male victims of child sexual abuse had experienced adult victimization. Of the female rape victims, 7% became pregnant as a consequence of rape. In the Netherlands, as elsewhere, the prevention of sexual violence should be prioritized.

Keywords: gender-based violence; men; women; representative sample

Sexual violence is a severe problem all over the world. In the last few decades, it has become clear that many women and children have experienced sexual violence, and there is growing evidence that men also can become victims. Women and men who were victimized often report physical, psychological, and sexual health problems (de Visser, Rissel, Richters, & Smith, 2007; Sundaram, Laursen, & Helweg- Larsen, 2008). In the Netherlands, the prevalence and characteristics of sexual violence among the general population, women and men, had not yet been investigated. The overall aim of this study is to add these figures to the international body of knowledge. The data also give insight into the number of victims who were revictimized. In addition, the article presents results relating to pregnancy as a consequence of rape-a topic that has seldom been studied.

In this study, sexual violence is defined as any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances using coercion by any person regardless of their relation to the victim in any setting, including, but not limited to, home and work. This is in line with the definition of the World Health Organization (WHO) as stated in the World Report on Violence and Health (Krug, Dahlberg, Mercy, Zwi, & Lozano-Ascencio, 2002). Although forced acts of trafficking are also included in the WHO's definition, these acts are beyond the scope of this study. Sexual violence that is directed at victims aged younger than 16 years is referred to as child sexual abuse (CSA). Rape is defined as a coerced sexual act that includes vaginal or anal penetration (with a penis, other body parts, or objects). Attempted rape is defined as the attempt to do so.

LIFETIME PREVALENCE OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE

Lifetime prevalence of rape (or attempted rape) among adult women in the western world has been found to range from 15% to 23% (Rozee & Koss, 2001). Spitzberg (1999) distinguished rape from attempted rape in a review of 120 studies and found that approximately 13% of all women have ever been raped and that 18% of women have ever experienced an attempted rape.1 In Australia, the rate for wider defined lifetime prevalence of sexual coercion was found to be 21% among women (de Visser, Smith, Rissel, Richters, & Grulich, 2003). Among adult women in the western world, Rozee and Koss (2001) found prevalence rates for sexual abuse near one third.

In the United States, the lifetime prevalence of completed rape for men was found to be 2% (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000). Spitzberg (1999) reviewed 120 studies and concluded that 3% of men have ever been raped, and 6% of men have ever experienced an attempted rape. In Australia, the lifetime prevalence of sexual coercion among men was found to be 5% (de Visser et al. …

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