Sexual Violence and Exploitation
Sexual Violence and Exploitation
SEXUAL VIOLENCE AND EXPLOITATION
Sexual violence and exploitation are social problems that were relatively neglected as research topics until the late 1960s. This article focuses primarily on the different categories of rape, sexual harassment, child sexual abuse, and related issues.
RAPE AS A FORM OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE
Rape was not conceptualized as a major problem in the United States until the late 1960s; this awareness accompanied the resurrected women's movement and the establishment of the National Center for the Prevention and Control of Rape. After this awakening of interest, enough information was generated to document the fact that there were explanations for rape that went beyond the biological and psychological. Society and its institutions, laws, and attitudes were seen as contributing greatly to the problem. In the 1970s, rape was clearly defined as a social problem.
The works of three feminists contributed to advancing awareness of rape or sexual violence against women: Millet's Sexual Politics (1972), Griffin's "Rape: The All American Crime" (1971), and Brownmiller's Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape (1975). Millet argued that rape is linked to the concept of patriarchy, in which men use power and coercion to control women's sexuality. Nowhere is this better articulated than in the "crimes of honor" concept or social norm still evident in many Middle Eastern countries. Griffin's article focused on the nature of rape. She argued that rape is not a sexual act but a violent political act and that the threat of being raped controls women socially. This social control is present even among very young females. In response to the survey questions, "Would you rather be a man or woman?" and "Why?" a 10-year old girl replied that she would rather be a man, because women get killed and raped (Renzetti and Curran 1995, p. 338). Research indicates that rape is the crime women fear most, and this fear is compounded by the possibility of getting pregnant and contracting AIDS. Brownmiller's book is a historical account of rape that expands on the ideas of Millet and Griffin. The writings of these women clearly demonstrated that rape is more a sociological than a psychological phenomenon.
The definition of rape that served as the basis for most rape laws is grounded in English common law: "the unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman by force and against her will." Implicit in this idea is the assumption that the assailant is a man. In the 1970s, many states redefined rape laws to more comprehensively describe the behaviors that constituted rape and define the age of consent. By the end of the decade, forty-one states had passed some form of rape shield laws that limited the use in court of victims' prior sexual conduct with persons other than the offender (Green 1988, pp. 16–40). Many states have abandoned the concept of rape in favor of the more gender-neutral concept of sexual assault.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) indicates that a rape happens every five minutes in the United States. American women are eight times more likely to be raped than are European women and twenty-six times more likely than Japanese women. In the 1980s, the rate of rape in the United States rose four times faster than did the total crime rate. While the number of rapes appears to have fallen over the last few years, rape is still the most frequently committed and least reported violent crime. A total of 97,464 forcible rapes were reported to law enforcement bodies in 1995, the lowest number since 1989. Based on this statistic, it is estimated that in 1995, 72 of every 100,000 females were reported rape victims (U.S. Department of Justice 1995). However, a study funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that 683,000 women had been raped in 1990, a figure more than five times as high as the 130,260 reported to the police in that year ( Johnston 1992).
Victimization studies such as the National Crime Survey (NCS) and other research projects were initiated to get better estimates of the prevalence of rape. These studies show that the amount of rape is greatly underestimated, although prevalence rates vary from study to study and are hard to reconcile because of variations in research design, sampling, and geographic location.
Rape is described in a number of ways. Sometimes it is discussed in terms of the number of offenders per victim: the single-offender, two-offender, or multiple, group, or gang rape. Victimization statistics for these forms of rape are, respectively, 81 percent, 10 percent, and 8 percent (Koss and Harvey 1987, p. 10). Rape also is classified as stranger rape, in which the victim and offender have no relationship to one another, or acquaintance rape, which includes date rape and rape between individuals who knew each other before the assault. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, about 55 percent of rapes are acquaintance rapes; the younger the victim is, the more likely it is that she knew the rapist. Acquaintance rapes are especially common on college campuses. Warshaw (1988, chap. 1), citing statistics from the Ms. magazine Project on Campus Assault, reports fewer stranger (16 percent) and group rapes (15 percent), with the vast majority of incidents (95 percent) being individual assaults that involve acquaintances or dates (84 percent). The NCS's rape statistics indicate that 27 percent of rapes involve multiple offenders. While acquaintance rapes are more common, women raped by strangers are ten times more likely to report the incident (Renzetti and Curran 1995, p. 341).
Many researchers have attempted to classify rapists into types. Some typologies suggest as few as two or three types (e.g., Groth 1979), while others describe five (e.g., Rada 1978). A review of this literature leads to the conclusion that the typologies are tied closely to the developer's theoretical orientation and educational background.
Rape legally occurs when a person uses force or the threat of force to engage in sexual intercourse (vaginal, oral, or anal) with another person. This seems like a straightforward definition that may lead to the conclusion that rape cases are easy to prosecute. However, one of the most common defenses in rape cases involves the issue of consent. For example, if the victim was drinking, how can she be sure she did not consent? Many rapists have learned that the "alcohol excuse" can help them escape rape charges. A more insidious drug, rohypnol, is being used on college campuses and in bars and nightclubs to facilitate raping and getting away with it. It is dropped into a potential victim's drink. The symptoms are dizziness, disorientation, lack of coordination, and passing out. The victim is then raped but has no memory of the sexual assault. The question again is posed, If she cannot remember, how does she know she did not consent?
According to the Center for Women Policy Studies (1991, pp. 3–4), fewer than 40 percent of reported rapes result in charges against the offenders and only 3 percent result in convictions. Many researchers have commented on the comparatively light sentences associated with rape convictions. There appear to be several reasons for this, including the tendency to blame the victim rather than the perpetrator: "She should have been more cautious or more sensible or not been walking alone at night." Closely associated with blaming the victim is the notion of "victim precipitation," or the idea that the victim did something to provoke the rape. This can be tied to how the victim was dressed, her profession (e.g., a prostitute), or where she was when the rape happened (e.g., in a fraternity member's room or a male's hotel room, as in the Mike Tyson rape case). Many researchers who have studied rape and the criminal justice system argue that women who are rape victims are "double victims." They are victimized by both the rapist and the criminal justice system.
OTHER TYPES OF RAPE AS SEXUAL VIOLENCE
Marital Rape. Most discussions of rape focus on date rape or acquaintance rape and stranger rape. A third type of rape among intimates that has received increased attention since the 1980s is marital rape. This type of rape occurs when the victim and offender are spouses or are living in a spouselike arrangement. Although this was thought to be rare, Russell (1984, p. 59) found that 8 percent of ever-married women reported being raped by their husbands. Some researchers believe that marital rape is more common than all other types combined. The 1980s brought about many changes, as spousal immunity laws, which historically prevented husbands from being charged with raping their wives because a wife was viewed as a husband's property, were challenged.
In 1977, Oregon repealed the marital exemption to its rape statute, and in 1979, James K. Chretien became the first person in the United States to be convicted of marital rape. Currently all states prohibit forced sex between a husband and a wife, although most include numerous spousal exemptions. As of 1990, seventeen states and the District of Columbia allowed the prosecution of husbands for raping their wives without exemptions. In twenty-six states, husbands are exempt from prosecution in certain circumstances, such as if only force is employed (Wallace 1999, p. 509) but there is no additional violence such as the threat of using a weapon. In eight states (Kentucky, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah), a husband cannot be prosecuted for raping his wife unless they are living apart, are legally separated, or have filed for divorce. In five states, exemptions are extended to unmarried cohabiting couples, and there is an exemption for dating relationships in Delaware.
Males as Victims of Sexual Violence. Males appear to be victimized both in and out of prison by heterosexual and homosexual males and by females. Currently, men are thought to make up less than 10 percent of all rape victims (Renzetti and Curran 1995, p. 39.) In Rape in Prison (1975), Scacco emphasized that rape in prisons is not an act of homosexuality. Rather, it is an extension of the traditional male sex role and the patriarchal culture in which a single male or group of males seeks to dominate another person through a violent act. In the absence of females, those who are powerful, dominant conquerors are viewed as the "real" or "masculine" men and those who are raped are relegated to a lower status. As Scacco puts it, the victims of rape become "a punk, a queen, or a female." They have, in the words of the rapists, "had their manhood taken" (1975, p. 52). Scacco's interpretation of male rape in prison fits into most feminist theories of rape: Rape is an act of power and control rather than a sexual act. While the prevalence rates for the rape of males in prisons appear to vary from one institution to another, it seems safe to conclude that these rates are higher in prisons than outside prisons, where women are available targets.
Rape Outside Prisons. Outside the prison environment, most people think rape happens only to women. Scacco (1975) argues, however, that rape would not exist in prison if it did not exist first on the streets. A survey of literature on males raping males indicates that the overwhelming majority of rapists are heterosexual both in and out of prison. However, as more is learned about sexual assaults of males, rape is found to be part of gay men's relationships as well as involving gay men raping women and other men. If, as most rape theorists agree, rape is a crime of power and not sex, there is no reason to believe that some homosexual males do not commit rape. Russell (1984, p. 74) argues that the insignificant number of females raping males (less then 1 percent) has received more attention than has rape by homosexual men. She notes that this politically controversial issue has resulted an avoidance of even discussing the issue (1984, p. 74).
While there is no agreement about the prevalence of males being raped, there is a consensus that men get raped by other men and women, that homosexual and heterosexual males are rape victims and offenders, that rape happens in all parts of society and not just in prisons, and that men are less likely than women to report rape. It is known that male victims share some of the traumas of female victims as well as having special concerns. Those added concerns include issues of masculinity and/or sexuality, medical procedures, reporting to the police, telling others, and finding resources and support.
Rape and War. Brownmiller's (1975, chap. 3) historical account of rape provides evidence that rape has always been a part of war. This applies whether one analyzes biblical accounts or the raping of women by American soldiers during the Vietnam War.
There is much documentation that the rape of women and even children is not, as some military and government officials argue, an unfortunate but inevitable part of war. Instead, Brownmiller argues, it is a planned part of war strategy that has included not only rape during the conquest of a village, town, or city but women being captured and used as sexual slaves. She contends that it is the winning side or the conquerors in battle who do the raping. Rape is not only a way of measuring victory but also the way males assert their masculinity. Consistent with the idea that women are property, women are seen as tangible rewards of war.
Rape during war is considered a criminal act under international law, punishable by imprisonment or death, but wartime rape continues. This violence against women generated public attention as a human rights issue when, in 1993, the U.S. and European media reported the systematic rape, sexual enslavement, torture, and murder of Bosnian Muslim women and children by Serbian military forces in the former Yugoslavia. The estimate of the number of rapes in 1993 was 20,000 (Riding 1993). In 1999, the rape of women and children by the Serb military continued. Investigations of these atrocities conclude, as did Brownmiller, that rape is used as a weapon of war. They argue that it is a central part of the Serbian ethnic cleansing campaign. Bosnian and Kosovar men are murdered, while the women are raped with the objective of impregnating them to produce offspring with Serbian genetic characteristics. It is also psychological warfare, with the intent to demoralize and terrorize Muslims and drive them from their homes. European investigators reported that many women and children died during sadistic and brutal rapes. Brownmiller's historical account of rape and war indicates that an additional consequence of rape and impregnation is suicide and infanticide.
Rape during war often takes the form of group or gang rape. There are documented cases of gang rape by police and military personnel in numerous countries, including Haiti, Honduras, El Salvador, and Iran (Sontag 1993). There are also recent accounts of Algerian women being raped by Islamic radicals. Muslim women in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Algeria who survive rape face psychological problems associated not only with rape but with living in a culture that values sexual purity, by which the male's honor as well as the family's honor is defined.
The motivations for rape and violence against women in war are similar to those for rape between strangers, acquaintances, and intimates in everyday society and prisons. It is an attempt to socially control and harm individuals who are viewed as having lower or undesirable statuses or are viewed as the enemy. In war, the rapes occur on a larger scale.
In the 1990s, the United Nations attempted to develop policies to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women. However, as long as rape of women and children remains an open or hidden part of war strategy, this violent act will continue.
EXPLANATIONS FOR RAPE
Explanations for rape come from a variety of disciplines, although many explanations have been dominated by the psychiatric perspective and the medical model (Koss and Leonard 1984, pp. 213– 232). The basic assumption underlying this thinking is that rapists are psychologically sick and that rape is sexually motivated. Hence, many explanations focus on developing profiles of rapists (e.g., Groth 1975), leading to a body of research whose validity is questioned because it is based primarily on nonrepresentative clinical or prison populations.
Sociological explanations of rape focus on the social dynamics of society that promote, treat, or proscribe such behaviors and include sociocultural, sociohistorical, and sociopsychological analyses. While these types of explanations lagged behind those of psychology and biology, they offer an alternative to individual-based theories.
Sociocultural explanations of rape are supported by large cross-cultural studies of tribal societies (Sanday 1981) and large studies in nonindustrialized nations. All these studies draw similar conclusions. Rape-prone societies endorse the macho personality and a fundamental belief in the inferiority of females, a belief system that incorporates an acceptance of physical aggression, a high amount of risk taking, and a casual attitude toward sex. Rape also is related to a culture's socioeconomic structure.
Among industrialized societies, the United States has high rape rates. Baron and Straus's (1989, p. 180) state-level analyses show that rape rates vary by region and state within the United States and that those rates are positively related to the amount of social disorganization, sex magazine circulation (pornography), and gender inequality in a state or region. This adds weight to earlier research that ties rape-specific myths and attitudes to a larger attitudinal construct supportive of sex role stereotyping, violence against women, and adversarial sexual beliefs.
Sociocultural and sociopsychological explanations of rape support the sociohistorical analysis of Brownmiller (1975). While Brownmiller has been criticized for exaggerating the notion of male intimidation, sociological and anthropological research indicates that rape is a socially created phenomenon that is much more likely to occur in cultures that support patriarchy and violence. Sociocultural explanations also may explain why the majority of offenders are male irrespective of whether the victims are male or female, adult or child.
Regardless of the varied theoretical perspectives, most researchers agree that multifactorial (psychological and sociological factors), compared with single-factor, explanations are better predictors of rape. Russell (1984, p. 111) notes that most rape theories could fit into Finkelhor's (1984) four-factor explanation of child sexual abuse, which is discussed in a later section.
Sexual harassment is a form of violence against both males and females, but the overwhelming majority of victims are women and most of the perpetrators are men. While the exact prevalence seems to vary from one study to another, it is safe to conclude that sexual harassment in the workplace is widespread. While sexual harassment can occur in other social institutions, such as colleges and schools where professors and teachers use their positions of power to obtain sexual favors from students, most sexual harassment research has focused on the workplace.
Sexual harassment policies, laws, and rulings generally have relied on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, or national origin. In 1980, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) adopted guidelines that specifically address discrimination on the basis of sex. While these guidelines were not binding, they were used by courts in making decisions in sexual harassment cases. In 1993, the Supreme Court further articulated the meaning of sexual harassment in Harris v. Forklift Systems, Inc. Basically, the case focused on the "nature" of sexual harassment and ruled that there was no requirement that the severity of the harassing conduct cause the victim psychological or physical harm. The Court held that victims alleging sexual harassment met their burden of proof if they proved that the environment was perceived as hostile or abusive. The circumstances for making such a judgment could include the frequency of the alleged harassment, whether it was physically threatening or humiliating, and the extent to which it interfered with an employee's work performance.
Sexual harassment may take two forms that are not mutually exclusive: quid pro quo harassment and hostile environment harassment. The former type occurs when the victim is placed in a situation where an employer or supervisor uses his or her position to request sexual favors as a basis for continued employment or job benefits. The victim is put in the position of choosing between providing sex and losing employment or benefits. Hostile environment harassment happens when victims are exposed to a series of unwelcome sexual acts that result in psychological harm or humiliation. The difference between the two types of harassment is that the quid pro quo form focuses on harassment that is tied to economic disadvantage, while the hostile environment type focuses on psychological harm.
Tangri et al. (1982) offer several models to explain sexual harassment: the biological, organizational, and sociocultural models. The biological model assumes that sexual behavior in the workplace is an extension of human sexuality or strong sex drives. The organizational model focuses on the situation in which the workplace offers opportunities for sexual aggression. This model focuses on power that derives from formal roles in an organization. The sociocultural model is derived from theories of patriarchy in which men are viewed as dominant in Western culture and are the gatekeepers of political and economic power. This explanation is the most congruent with a feminist view of sexual harassment.
Two prominent sexual harassment cases have captured the public's attention. The first involved Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas. Hill, a law professor, testified to the U.S. Congress that Thomas, who had been nominated to the Supreme Court, had sexually harassed her. The second was the case of Paula Jones v. William J. Clinton. Jones brought charges against President Clinton, alleging that when he was governor of Arkansas and she was an employee of that state, he asked her to engage in sexual activities. Her reluctance, she argued, led to the loss of job benefits. Both cases demonstrated the difficulties of proving sexual harassment cases. They also sent messages that bringing charges against very powerful males can lead to additional reputational, economic, and psychological victimization.
Simply having agencies and courts establish procedures and policies to process sexual harassment will not terminate this behavior. The public must send a clear message that it stands behind sexual harassment laws and that everyone, regardless of social status, must be held accountable. Accounts of sexual harassment, rape, or sexual exploitation by President Clinton of Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones, Monica Lewinsky, Kathleen Willey, Juanita Broaddrick, and others raise questions about the public's concern about these issues as well as the issue of a double standard. The public seems willing to support or excuse some offenders, such as President Clinton, while punishing others.
CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
Since the mid-1970s, there has been increased interest in understanding child sexual abuse. This concern led to the founding of the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect and the passage of the 1977 Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation Act. A review of the child sex abuse research (Finkelhor et al. 1986) demonstrates many similarities with what is known about rape. Paralleling Brownmiller's (1975) historical analysis of rape, for example, is Rush's (1980) analysis of child sexual abuse. Like Brownmiller, Rush elevates child sexual abuse to the level of a social problem by tracing its roots to patriarchal societies and their social institutions, belief systems, and myths. However, there are groups that do not view child–adult sex as a problem, such as the North American Man Boy Love Association; in fact, they advocate it.
In general, child sexual abuse can be defined as sexual exploitation of or sexual activities with a child by an adult, in which the child's health or welfare may be harmed or threatened. While all states consider child sexual abuse a crime, definitions vary from state to state and some states leave the interpretation to the courts. There is no real agreement among social scientists about the true extent of child sexual abuse, but all concede that the number of reported cases is increasing and that the actual numbers are underestimated, particularly for males. A comparison of national findings with less comprehensive research studies reveals conflicting estimates of the incidence of child sexual abuse. Commonly cited estimates suggest that one in four girls and one in six to seven boys will be sexually abused by the time they reach age 18.
Studies do not support a general social characteristics profile of the victims or offenders, although females tend to be at somewhat greater risk of victimization than males and males are overwhelmingly the offenders. The ages of greatest risk for victimization appear to be between 4 and 9. Most offenders are either known by or related to their victims and are not old. Only about 10 percent of child sexual abusers are strangers, although the Internet could change this statistic.
The impact of being a victim of child sexual abuse has been widely studied. It generally is agreed that the amount of trauma experienced varies with the type of abuse, how the offender is related to the child, how long the abuse lasted, how sexually intrusive the abuse was, the age when the abuse began, the reactions of others to the disclosure of the abuse, and the child's personality.
As an ever-increasing number of child sexual abuse cases have moved into the courts, particularly in cases involving divorce and custody, concern for balancing the needs of the legal system against those of children has arisen. Placing children in the courtroom subjects them to many of the same problems faced by rape victims: victim blaming and other courtroom-produced traumas. Although still in the early stages, reforms are being implemented and suggested, with one area of legislative reform focusing on increasing convictions and community notification once sex offenders are released. The latter was largely an outgrowth of Megan's Law, which was named after Megan Kanka, a 7-year-old who was molested and killed in 1994 by a released sex offender who was living in her neighborhood without residents' knowledge of his history of sexually abusing children. By 1995, forty-three states had adopted laws requiring offenders to register with a law enforcement agency when they were released.
The late 1980s and early 1990s ushered in a new area of child sexual abuse. Children 12 years of age and younger have sexually abused other children. These young offenders have predatory patterns that are very similar to those of adult and adolescent molesters. Some, but not all, are reacting to their own victimization. An interesting finding from this research is that females tend to be about as likely to be perpetrators as are males and are equally aggressive in their sexual acts. Questions have been raised about why females are not found in larger numbers among the adolescent and adult sex offender populations. The family system appears to be the learning and training ground for these youthful (some as young as 2 years old) perpetrators (Araji 1997).
Studies of child sexual abuse do not offer a consistent link between social class, race, and ethnic group, although the lower socioeconomic classes tend to be overrepresented, as are, in the case of young perpetrators, single-parent families. It is too early to make accurate cross-national comparisons of the extent of child sexual abuse. Some research has been conducted in other countries and Finkelhor (1994) suggests that, as in the United States, the problem is widespread. There have been no cross-cultural studies of children who sexually abuse other children.
EXPLANATIONS OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
The development of child sexual abuse explanations has been similar to that of explanations for rape, as most early studies focused on offenders' psychopathological or biological motivations or attempted to develop profiles of child molesters, victims, and families. As with rape, most explanations offered only single-factor explanations, an approach criticized by Araji Finkelhor (1986, chap. 34). As an alternative, those authors proposed a four-factor explanation of child sexual abuse that includes the categories of emotional congruence, sexual arousal, blockage, and disinhibition. Respectively, these factors incorporate explanations of why an adult would have an emotional need to relate to a child, could be sexually aroused by a child, would not have alternative sources of gratification, and would not be deterred from such an interest by normal prohibitions (Araji and Finkelhor 1986, p. 117). The model includes both individual (e.g., arrested emotional development) and sociocultural (pornography) factors. As was noted above, Russell (1984) believes that this model could be adapted to explain rape.
With respect to explaining youthful perpetrators' sexual aggression, Araji (1997) found much of the same theoretical history noted above. She proposes systems theory as a necessary explanatory and remedial guide.
Most researchers and practitioners consider incest different from child sexual abuse, with incest viewed as intrafamilial and child sexual abuse viewed as extrafamilial sexual relations. While some argue that the two types of abuse have much in common, one of the most significant differences is that the victims of incest are always betrayed by someone who has been charged with loving and protecting them. Much of the sexual abuse committed by children 12 years of age and younger is intrafamilial. Such experiences can have extremely destructive results, but this varies with the factors discussed above.
The most common type of incest researched and written about is between father and daughter (Herman and Hirschman 1981), although the most common type may be brother–sister. As stepfamilies are formed, the probability for incestuous relationships involving stepfathers increases. Estimates of incest range from a high of 38 percent of females in Russell's (1984) study to about 25 percent in several other survey studies (e.g., Finkelhor 1979). However, the same research problems surrounding rape and child sexual abuse apply to incest literature: underestimating the extent of the crime, not accurately defining it, and theory and sampling problems.
TREATMENT AND PREVENTION
A considerable body of literature on the prevention and treatment of sexual violence and abuse has emerged from applied disciplines such as social work and clinical psychology as well as from community and feminist organizations. An extensive discussion is beyond the scope of this article, and so only a few generalizations are noted. First, as treatment programs are informed by a variety of theories of rape and sexual abuse, it is not surprising that there is an array of treatment programs. With respect to offenders, most programs focus on punishment and/or rehabilitation (Groth 1979; Conte and Berliner 1981), and many are based on the psychiatric or medical model. In cases of child sexual abuse and incest, programs typically focus on helping the victims and their families get through the crisis. In the area of rape, programs have been aimed primarily at treating victims and families for the rape trauma syndrome and have been directed at females. Treatment programs have also been developed to deal with the short- and long-term effects of abuse (Brown and Finkelhor 1986) and can be either clinical or community-based. Some are beginning to focus on sexual and ethnic differences. At present, however, there remain debates among professionals and practitioners about what the appropriate treatments are, which ones work, and how well.
Stemming from myths and callous societal attitudes toward sexual aggression and the extensive involvement of feminists, prevention programs have followed a victim advocacy model (Araji 1989, chap. 17). Under this concept, potential victims are taught in various ways how to protect themselves from becoming victims. Some newer programs are aimed at men and promote the development of a nurturant rather than a macho male image.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
Extensive public and professional attention to sexual violence and exploitation has come about only since 1960 and has been primarily a grassroots movement. As a result, a large body of cross-disciplinary literature has developed and various reforms have taken place. While no consensus exists about the scope of these problems, the rates at which they are increasing or decreasing, definitions, explanations, social policies, and solutions, sociologists, particularly feminists, have concluded that sexual violence and exploitation will not be reduced or eliminated until societies stop supporting and/or promoting aggression, violence, exploitation, and inequality.
However, the prognosis that sexual violence and exploitation involving women and children will soon end is not convincing. As long as societal members, many of them women, are willing to turn a blind eye to predatory behaviors toward women on the part of the president of the United States and surveys of college, high school, and elementary students report large percentages (31 to 87 percent) of students believing that it is acceptable for males to engage in forced sex or rape of females under certain circumstances (White and Humphrey 1991) or if they do not get caught (Malamuth 1981), one must conclude that the fight against sexual violence and exploitation of women and children is still in the beginning stages.
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Sharon K. Araji