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Characteristics of sexual violence against adolescent girls and adult women

Abstract

Background: Sexual violence is considered a serious violation of human rights which affects mainly young women and adolescents. The metropolitan region of São Paulo is the fourth largest urban conglomeration in the world with 29 million people facing crime in conditions typical of large urban areas. However, there is little information about the conditions under which sexual offences occur, or the characteristics of perpetrators and victims. Objective: To compare characteristics of sexual violence against adolescent girls and adult women. Method: This is a quantitative, retrospective, descriptive study of sexual violence against adolescent girls and adult women. Analyses were carried out on data collected from 1118 women, 546 adolescents (10-19 years) and 572 adults (e 20 years), with a complaint of rape treated at Hospital Pérola Byington, São Paulo, between July 1994 and August 1999, according to Brazilian legislative criteria. The age limit of the adolescent sample met the World Health Organization's (WHO) criteria. We analyzed the type of sexual contact, degree of intimidation, perpetrator and activity of the victim during the approach. Data were collected using a standardized form and entered into EpiInfo, version 6.04b. Results: The average age of victims was 21.0 years ± 5.8 years. The frequency of vaginal, anal and oral penetration was similar in both age groups. Crimes without penetration were five times more frequent in adolescents and use of threats of death or intimidation was common in both groups. Mental illness a legal criterion for vulnerability was more prevalent in adult victims (70%), and the majority of adolescent victims were aged <14 years (59.4%). Uncle and stepfather perpetrators were more frequent among adolescents (20%) and partners or former intimate partners in adult women (25.2%). In most cases the approach occurred in public places (80.5%), although sex crimes at the perpetrator's residence were more frequent amongst adolescents. Conclusions: Sexual crimes showed similar characteristics in both groups. In a significant number of cases they were associated with risk of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Although children and adolescents require the same intervention measures and legal protection, a considerable proportion of adolescent sex offenders can face conditions similar to those of adult women. (AU)

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