Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 36, Issue 5, pp 676–686 | Cite as

The Impact of Sexual Coercion on Psychological, Physical, and Sexual Well-Being in a Representative Sample of Australian Women

  • Richard O. de Visser
  • Chris E. Rissel
  • Juliet Richters
  • Anthony M. A. Smith
Original Paper


It is well established that, compared to other women, women who have been forced or frightened into unwanted sexual activity have poorer psychological, physical, and sexual health. However, it is not clear whether particular experiences of sexual coercion, such as younger age when coerced or number of times coerced, are more likely to lead to poorer health status. This study of a representative sample of Australian women aged 16–59 years was designed to examine such associations. Of the 9134 women recruited for the study, 885 (21%) had been sexually coerced, which was defined as being forced or frightened into unwanted sexual activity. This study showed that any experience of sexual coercion was associated with poorer psychological, physical, and sexual health. The data revealed no consistent associations between health status and particular characteristics of sexual coercion, such as the age when women were coerced, the number of times they had been coerced, or the time since being coerced. Two of the few significant findings were that women who had been coerced more than once reported significantly greater psychosocial distress, and that women first coerced when aged 13–16 reported poorer physical well-being than women first coerced at younger or older ages. There was no significant association between whether women had consulted a psychologist or other professional counselor and better health status. The absence of consistent associations between health status and particular characteristics of sexual coercion indicates a need for care and support services for all women who have been sexually coerced.


Sexual coercion Women Well-being Sexually transmitted infection Therapy 



This study was supported by funding from the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing, the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation, the health departments of New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia, and the Central Sydney Area Health Service. Thanks to Andrew Grulich for his contribution to the study. We are grateful that participants shared so freely the sometimes intimate aspects of their personal lives.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard O. de Visser
    • 1
  • Chris E. Rissel
    • 2
  • Juliet Richters
    • 3
  • Anthony M. A. Smith
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of SussexBrighton, LondonUK
  2. 2.University of Sydney and Sydney South West Area Health ServiceSydneyAustralia
  3. 3.National Centre in HIV Social ResearchUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  4. 4.Australian Research Centre in SexHealth & Society, La Trobe UniversityMelbourneAustralia

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